Music By James Newton Howard
Intrada Special Collection Volume. 265
28 Tracks/Disc Time: 70:18
Over 20 years ago, “Falling Down” was released by Warner Bros. after somewhat of a turbulent go around through every studio in Hollywood. Finally, Oscar Winner Michael Douglas read and soon championed the script as one of the best he’s ever read and after coming close to becoming just another HBO Movie of the week, it become a surprise hit and also has become one of the more memorable films of the crime drama genre. A best seller on Home Video, DVD and now Blu-Ray, the film celebrated its’ 20th Anniversary last year and finally after that long gestating period of time a soundtrack for the film has finally been released. For those who haven’t seen or know what the film “Falling Down” is all about, it’s really quite simple: Douglas played a former military defense worker named William Foster, a down on his luck divorcee who looks like a straight arrow guy wearing nerdy glasses, a white shirt and tie. A frustrated everyman who one day while being stuck on an L.A. freeway on a hot day, finally just snaps. Abandoning his car in traffic, Foster (aka. D-FENS) walks through the tough, grimy streets of L.A attempting to go back home to his ex-wife Carla (Barbara Hershey) and his daughter, Adele for her birthday.
First, stopping by a Korean market where he goes bat shit on a Korean store owner for having high prices, then passing through a gang land area where he runs afowl of some lowlives who try to kill him with a botched drive by in which Foster obtains a gym bag full of guns to travel around with which leads to an awkward moment at a fast food restaraunt after demanding breakfast and switching over to lunch in which he utters “This is what I’m talking about! Now look at this sorry miserable squashed thing….what’s wrong with this picture?” over a hamburger, then battling a neo-nazi Army Navy store clerk (Frederic Forest, Apocalypse Now) and making a final chilling phone call to his wife in which he reaches the point of no return. During all this chaos, a lone retiring Detective named Prendergast (Robert Duvall, “Apocalypse Now”) is tracking his every move and as he puts the pieces of Foster’s puzzle together, he figures out his identity and the motives of his actions. He soon has to race against time along with his partner (Rachel Ticotin, “Total Recall”) to stop Foster from reaching his ex-wife’s home and do the unthinkable. With excellent direction by Joel Schumacher and terrific cinematography by Andrej Bartkowiak, the film has held up exceptionally well after twenty years and it really does resonate to real life all to well as a film that people can relate to.
Right from the start with the “Main Title”, Howard immediately introduces to Douglas’ character’s hell on a 90 degree day stuck in L.A. traffic with moody synthesizers, electric guitar and as the track progresses, aggressive percussion and growling brass take over as the character’s frustrations are depicted on screen. The film has Douglas walking along through various different neighborhoods and parts of town that aren’t exactly friendly to put it mildly and Howard underscores the misadventures of D-FENS beginning with his encounter with a pair of gang members (“Hole In Shoe”, “Drive By Shooting”) which is underscored by moody electronics at first before sieging into a rage of percussion and in the latter track, Howard introduces the D-FENS theme with a slow pulsing synthesizer beat with growling brass before giving way to a rhythmic beat as the gang members meet their demise. Howard shifts gears on his journey as he passes East LA and into more familiar territory with Howard’s scoring shifting to even more moody, exotic percussion, guitar, strings and electric guitar as he walks through “MacArthur Park” after failing to get into a crowded bus “Bus Stop” and encountering a version of himself that is fighting his own personal injustice (“Miracle Mile”). Howard rightfully shifts the tones of each sequence and in “Miracle Mile” he introduces the “London Bridge Is Falling Down” melody and a lonely trumpet solo to give some character a human side. Then he encounters a racist Army/Navy store clerk in which D-FENS doesn’t agree with his personal ethics (“To Surplus Store”, “Fitting Room”, “Back Room”) as menacing brass and percussion take over and causing more mayhem for other people along the way (“Under Construction”, “Golf Course”) with one memorable breakdown as he indavertantly takes a family hostage (“Caretaker’s Family”) in which you do sympathize with him. Howard gives the Prendergast character some musical urgency as he tracks down his prey in “Other Side Of The Moon” and leading to final chase and confrontation with him (“Till Death Do Us Part”, “Beth Kicks Gun” and “Falling Down (Revised”) with the finale featuring some frenetic and propulsive action music that lays a little bit of ground work for “The Fugitive” only more percussion based and featuring growling brass, strings and Native American sound that actually is very neat. “Still A Cop (Revised)” and “End Titles” wrap up the album on a high note with the former featuring a solumn trumpet solo in memory of D-FENS as Duvall’s character reflects on what’s happend with the full reprise of the scores’ main themes heard one final time as the film fades to black.
Intrada’s album is the first “official” release of the terrific tense urban score that many fans of the film have wanted for so long. It features everything that was in the film a slightly more as the music was dialed or edited out of the final film which is somewhat of a revelation. A minor and it’s very slight is the crossfading of some cues that were better off on their own, but surprisingly those crossfades were supervised and approved by Howard really do work. It has a flow and a solid listening experience rather than stopping and starting and stopping and making it unlistenable. The album is also a revelation in the fact that the score has very unique nuances and layers of sound that you didn’t know where there in the film itself. Howard meticulously wrote a gritty, percussive and atmospheric score that is very memorable and one of the reasons people have wanted it so badly. “Falling Down” isn’t for everyone, but for those that love Howard’s music, this a solid masterpiece and one that will live on with a great movie. Highly recommended Thumbs way way up!