Monday, October 7, 2019
SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.
Jordan Peele’s deservedly Oscar-winning horror script (with accolades to those actors who improvised lines) suggests the title, Get Out, has multiple meanings. It can be a warning to the main black male character. It can also imply that white people want African Americans to leave, if not in body, but mentally.
The opening has a fit young black man, who we later learn is named Andre (LaKeith Stanfield) walking in a white suburban neighborhood, lost, trying to find an address. He talks to himself, feeling like “a sore thumb” because he is an African American and from his words he is in an affluent area, where many black people may feel that they are at risk. It is night, and a white sports car pulls up near him. He tries to play it cool, and walks the other way. The music in the car is an old song with the words “Run, rabbit, run,” which makes it sound like Andre is the prey of a hunter, and the line resembles the title of the movie. The driver of the car, who is wearing a black outfit with a hood, gets Andre in a choke hold. The black man passes out and the hooded man puts him in the trunk and drives off. The soundtrack switches to quick violin strokes, reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann’s score in Psycho, telling the audience that things are going to get weirdly scary. This abduction is a setup, and the movie is saying that even in this current day, a black man in a white neighborhood is in jeopardy.
Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is an African American, (whose first name suggests he is a Christ figure, but who turns out refuses to be sacrificed, and whose last name may refer to George Washington, a person who fought against the tyranny of others), is in his apartment that has photos on the walls and we see him holding a camera. So, we know he is a photographer. His girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), whose first name we later discover is deceptively seductive, is white, and visits Chris. As IMDb notes foreshadowing items are in this scene. Chris has white soap on his face as he shaves, suggesting transformation from black to white. He is packing to meet her family but is cautious because she has not mentioned that he is black, and she confirms that she never dated a man of color before. He says he doesn’t want her father to go after him in the driveway with a shotgun, which turns out to be close to what happens. She assures him that his dad will be awkward and say he would have voted for Obama for a third term. She assures him that her parents are not racist. As we find, they are certainly not in the traditional sense, but in a way far more sinister.
Chris is nervous as they drive deep into the woods, and wants a cigarette that Rose throws out the window. She is concerned about his health, but, as we discover, not for the usual reasons. He calls his friend, Rod (Lil Rel Howery), who is a TSA employee at the airport. He is the comic relief in the film as he relates being disciplined for padding down a female senior citizen, and says the next 9/11 will involve a “geriatric” person because of a lack of caution (which turns out refers to the eventual events involving Chris). Rod will be taking care of Chris’s dog, Sid. Rod says jokingly that Chris shouldn’t meet a white girl’s parents. A definite foreshadowing.
While laughing and driving along, the car, an upscale Lincoln SUV, reflecting the wealth of Rose’s family, hits a deer. Chris checks out the animal which is dying off the side of the road. He looks at it and is shaken by what happened to the animal. This event, along with the opening attack on Andre and the song’s rabbit reference, give us images of innocent creatures being harmed. They call the police. The cop asks for Chris’s ID, but Rose is outraged as she emphasizes that Chris was not driving. The officer says that the police have a right to investigate any incident. She says that’s “Bullshit,” as she suggests that he is engaging in racial profiling. He backs off and Chris later tells her it was “hot” the way she defended him. She says she wouldn’t let anyone mess with her “man,” which under other circumstances would seem admirable, but in the context of this story, takes on a reference to ownership.
They arrive and her parent’s house is large and lovely. There is black man, Walter (Marcus Henderson), on the lawn who mechanically waves at them. She announces that the man is the groundskeeper (IMDb suggests that Rose’s pronunciation sounds like “grandskeeper,” as in grandparent). Rose’s father is Dean (Bradley Whitford), an authoritative name, who calls Chris “my man,” which seems like an awkward attempt to relate to Chris’s cultural background, but which echoes Rose’s ownership connotation. Missy (Catherine Keener), is Rose’s mother. When they relate the deer story, Dean says they did the ecosystem a favor by hitting it, calling the deer the rural equivalent of rats. Even though framed as an exaggeration, Dean’s call for eradication of a species is disturbing. Dean asks how long has this “thang” been going on between the couple, another awkward use of a word. They have been together for five months, not enough time for Chris to really know what Rose truly represents.
Dean gives Chris a house tour. Missy is a psychiatrist, which we find out shows she has the qualifications to mess with someone’s head. Dean says Rose’s younger brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), wants to be a doctor like his dad. These people are significantly involved in medical science. Dean also says that he collects stuff from everywhere he travels. This statement is another clue about his inclination to appropriate stuff for his own benefit. He says it’s “Such a privilege to experience another person’s culture,” a praiseworthy statement that later takes on an ominous side. Dean says his father, who was a sprinter, was eliminated by Jesse Owens who was on his way to winning gold medals in Germany in front of Hitler, defying the Nazi “Aryan” superiority beliefs. Dean obviously admires African American physical prowess, but as we see, in order to use it.
He then brings Chris into the kitchen. As they pass the basement door, Dean says they had to seal it off because of black mold, which is another suspicious statement, as we wonder why this well-to-do family couldn’t remove the problem. Dean takes Chris to the kitchen, which Dean says his mother loved. There is a young smiling, unblinking black woman there, Georgina (Betty Gabriel), as Dean says in reference to his mother, “we keep a piece of her in here.” His remark turns out to be a darkly humorous line.
Dean takes Chris outside and says that he loves how the closest house is on the other side of the lake, which provides “total privacy.” But privacy for what? Dean says that he knows how bad it looks for a white family to have black servants. But, Dean explains that they hired Georgina and Walter to help take care of his ailing parents. He didn’t feel right to let “them” go after the parents died so he kept them on. The “them” has two meanings, one literal one that refers to Georgina and Walter, and a veiled allusion to his mother and father. Dean then confirms Rose’s prediction when Dean says he would have voted for Obama for a third term if he could, adding he was the best president in his lifetime. The film suggests that when someone is constantly trying to make himself look good, it is a red flag that they are overcompensating.
Dean notices that Chris has cigarettes. He says that Missy, through hypnosis, cured him of the habit and offers to do the same for Chris. Chris does not want to be controlled by someone else (which is what happens to slaves) and says he’s okay with not pursuing any treatment. Missy taps her glass of iced tea with a spoon, another foreshadowing action. Rose claims she doesn’t realize the annual party thrown in honor of her grandfather is happening this weekend. Has she been away from home that long? (When I first saw this movie, I was suspicious of Rose early on, wondering how she could not know what her parents were up to). Georgina zones out and pours too much iced tea, suggesting there is definitely something strange going on here. Missy says she should go lie down, and Georgina re-pastes the big smile on her face.
Jeremy arrives. He is intoxicated at dinner and tells stories about Rose that one can write off as just weird youthful antics, including biting the tongue of her first boyfriend when he used it during her first kiss. However, the anecdote inserts a bit of past violence into the story. When Missy goes into the kitchen to check on dessert, Chris catches a glimpse of Georgina standing in the kitchen, looking like a grinning robot, holding a cake. Jeremy says that Chris could turn himself into a real athlete, transforming himself into a real “beast,” which appears to be a compliment, but along with the rabbit and deer references, we begin to see a pattern of viewing African Americans as dehumanized in the white world. Jeremy wants to know more about Chris, but his questions seem like an interrogation, asking if he ever was involved in street fights. Chris said he took judo in first grade, but instead of just laughing it off, Jeremy reveals he is a martial arts practitioner, and says jujitsu is a superior sport because it is mental, like chess, where one must be several moves ahead of an opponent. This remark can later be seen as the family being several steps ahead of Chris, and how Chris eventually shows his mental abilities. Jeremy is competitive with Chris, as if he wants to show that a white person can be just as athletic as an African American. He wants to perform some of his moves with Chris, who diplomatically says he has a rule about not engaging in such activity with an inebriated individual. Jeremy then looks at his parents apologetically and says he wasn’t going to harm Chris. He isn’t just talking about his behavior, he specifically says he wouldn’t hurt Chris, as we realize later he means he didn’t want to damage Chris’s body for their plans.
Later in their bedroom, Rose appears incensed about her brother’s actions, and how he never acted that way with her other boyfriends. Her reference to her brother probably wanting to put Chris in a choke hold connects with the first scene of the film, where the hooded individual incapacitated Andre, which suggests that it was Jeremy who abducted Andre. Chris has a waking dream while in bed about that deer in the woods, and there is a fly buzzing around Chris, which he swats. He is sensing that there is something not quite right here, and subconsciously feels threatened.
Chris gets out of bed, dresses, and heads outside to smoke. Georgina glides out of Chris’s sight, like a ghost, which is sort of what she is, as we discover. On the lawn, Walter, the groundskeeper, is running at top speed right at Chris, and then abruptly veers off to Chris’s left. This scene should remind us that Dean said his father was a runner who was eliminated by the African American champion, Jesse Owens. Chris is then startled by Georgina looking out of the kitchen. But she is not staring at him, but at her own reflection, and she smooths her hair to the side of her forehead, as if pleased with the way she looks. She then mechanically moves away.
Chris returns inside only to be surprised again by Missy who turns on the light to her office, warning Chris in a quiet voice how dangerous smoking is, but she has an ulterior motive. She asks him to sit with her. She has a cup of tea and a silver spoon in her hands (IMDb suggests that the silver spoon symbolizes her position of privilege). She says that hypnosis works by putting people in a state of “heightened suggestibility.” She then brings up his past that he noted at dinner, how his mother died of a car accident when he was eleven. This reference throws him off guard. He says he was watching TV and it was raining at the time. Missy continues to stir the tea. There is the sound of rain in the background as Chris relives the scene and he says his mother was heading home. He looks sleepy sitting in the chair. He says he just sat in his house but didn’t call anyone when his mother was late. He is trembling now as he admits that he didn’t want to call anyone because then it would make something bad become real. He cries, as she targets his guilt about feeling that his mother’s death was his fault. He says he can’t move. She says that he is paralyzed now like he was the night his mother died. The therapy turns sinister as she says, “Now, sink into the floor.” He is in a panic as he feels himself falling into a dark void. She approaches him sitting in the chair. It appears to him that she is looking at him through a small window telling him that he is now in the “Sunken Place.” She closes his eyes. (Jordan Peele, who is also the film’s director, said, “The Sunken Place means we are marginalized. No matter how loud we scream, the system silences us.”)
Chris wakes up as if he was having a nightmare. Rose is taking a shower. There is a poster with the odd but foreboding picture on the bathroom door of a woman with a skeleton head holding a skull. The words on the poster read, “Death Cheetah vs. Matter.” This image could be a warning about the women in this family. IMDb suggests that the poster may refer to the Armitages’ desire to cheat death, and Chris must use his brain “matter” to defeat them.
Chris walks outside and takes some pictures. Walter is chopping wood. Chris approaches the man and comments that they are working him hard. Walter smiles artificially, like Georgina, and says he isn’t doing anything he doesn’t want to, stressing his autonomy despite his supposed servant status. He then says that Rose is lovely, and adds she is “one of a kind, top of the line.” Walter sounds like he is reciting a cliché phrase, instead of candidly conversing with a fellow black man. Walter apologizes for his scaring Chris the previous night. He says he was only exercising, which seems like a stretch the way he was running full throttle. His whole manner is creepy because of his artificial, mannered speaking style. He sounds like he is actually referring to Chris when his voice gets louder and intimidating as he says, “I better mind my own business.”
Chris pulls out a cigarette but doesn’t smoke it. He tells Rose that he thinks her mom hypnotized him. Missy was successful in stopping the smoking from causing any more harm to be inflicted on Chris’s body. He admits he doesn’t remember much, but the thought of smoking now nauseates him, just as Dean had reported he felt. He confides that he had a dream about being in a dark pit. He then asks what is going on with Walter and his hostile attitude. Chris wonders if Walter is jealous because the groundskeeper likes Rose. She jokes about maybe she has a chance with him, which successively results in Chris dropping the conversation.
The neighbors begin to arrive for the party. Chris and Rose greet the Greenes. Gordon Greene ((John Wilmot) was a professional golfer and asks if Chris ever played golf. Like Dean, Gordon awkwardly addresses Chris’s race by saying he knows Tiger Woods. Gordon wants to check out Chris’s golf form, as if inspecting the young man’s physicality. The couple then encounter a very old man on oxygen, and his wife Lisa (Ashley LeConte Campbell), who looks several years younger than her husband. Lisa comments how handsome Chris is, and then inappropriately feels his arm and strangely says to her invalid husband how Chris looks pretty good. They are like plantation owners checking out a future slave. Lisa then asks Rose if “it” is better, meaning sex with an African American male, implying she is checking out a future sexual prospect.
They converse with another couple, who also only stress Chris’s color instead of dealing with him as another human being. The man goes on about how for a couple of hundred years, “fairer skin has been in favor.” But he says it’s different now, and “Black is in fashion,” as if having dark skin is trending, like something to buy on Amazon. Rose looks annoyed, and the embarrassed Chris excuses himself to take some pictures.
Chris sees an African American man, Logan (who is really the abducted Andre from the first scene) among this sea of white people standing in front of a table of refreshments. He is wearing clothes that would appear more conducive to what a suburban white male would wear, including a conservative sport jacket and straw hat. Chris says to his back that it is good to see another “brother” there. The young man turns around, revealing the same smile the other black people display, as he says, “Hi. Yes, of course it is.” Like Walter and Georgina, he appears like an automaton. His wife, who is much older, arrives saying they must talk with some of the others in attendance. Chris extends his hand in a fist bump position, but instead of returning the gesture, Logan grasps Chris’s hand in a traditional grip. It’s as if all the African American cultural behavior has been drained out of the black people here.
Chris walks and finds a gazebo with chairs in front of it. A seated blind man, Jim Hudson (Stephen Root), seems to know it is Chris who is there. He says that the people present are ignorant of “what real people go through,” as if explaining the inappropriate remarks of the others there. Perhaps he is saying they he and Chris have had obstacles to overcome, he because of his loss of sight, and Chris because of prejudice. He compliments Chris on his photography, which is odd considering his disability. Chris realizes he is a major player in the photographic field, owning a prominent gallery. Jim says his assistant describes the works to him in great detail. He knows about Chris’s accomplishments and admits he did not have the “eye” that Chris has before Jim went blind. Here, this sounds like a compliment, but his remarks later are seen as ominous.
Chris returns to the house and there are several guests who are talking but abruptly stop after he walks in and goes upstairs. Creepy. We now know that this party, if we didn’t already realize it, is really to assess Chris. In the bedroom, Chris notices for the second time that his cell phone cord was disconnected from the device, preventing recharging. He tells Rose that he believes Georgina is behind this act because she doesn’t want him with Rose. She kids about the jealousy angle again, and he relents for a second time. IMDb makes an astute observation about colors. The white guests wear black clothes and drive black cars. Jeremy, the abductor in the opening scene, wears black clothing, including a black hood, but his car is white, hinting at his race. In Chris’s apartment there is a picture of a white girl wearing a black mask. The conclusion is that these images suggest the desire of the white people of this community wanting to forcefully experience what they perceive are the advantages of being black.
Chris call his friend Rod again and tells him about the weird goings on, and the conversation between the two sounds genuine compared to what has been going on before. Rod warns him about the hypnosis and messing with his head, despite curing his smoking habit. Rod is funny as he says the residents may get Chris to “bark like a dog,” or that white people like to turn black individuals into “sex slaves.” But, his job background brings a suspicious and investigative mind to bear on the proceedings. He mentions serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who used the heads of his victims, which comes close to the sinister nature of what is really going on here.
After Chris hangs up with Rod, Georgina suddenly appears and startles Chris. She smiles and talks in her posed, even voice as she apologizes for accidentally unplugging his phone while she was cleaning. Rose obviously mentioned Chris’s concerns. Chris has this sideways glance during the movie, which accents his suspicion of what is happening. He says he didn’t want to “snitch” or “rat” her out. She doesn’t seem to comprehend the slang words until she finally understands the meaning and substitutes the white, anachronistic word “tattletale,” which again implies that her true nature has been subverted. She says she isn’t worried because she “doesn’t answer to anyone.” She is telling the truth as we find out later. He says he just gets “nervous” when he is around “too many white people.” His statement seems to rattle Georgina, like he has caused a crack in her mannered facade. She loses the smile, gasps, and sheds some tears. She starts to nervously giggle and repeats the word “no” numerous times as she tries to recover. She says the Armitages treat the black people “like family.” With good reason, as Chris eventually discovers.
As Chris exits the house, Dean introduces him to a bunch of visitors. The overemphasis on his skin color is again brought up as one of the guests asks if being African American is more of an advantage or disadvantage in modern society. Logan wanders by, and Chris asks that Logan answer the question. Logan doesn’t (or can’t) answer, he says, because he has become a homebody lately. He is divorced from the African American experience, trapped in this white stronghold. Chris uses his phone to take a picture of Logan, probably to show Rod later what he is going through. The camera’s flash engages, and Logan now is the one who loses his composure. His face mirrors fear, and blood begins to trickle out of his nose. Logan moves toward Chris and screams the title of the film, “Get out!” to him, stressing the immediacy of his warning.
Afterwards Dean tries to attribute Logan’s actions as due to a seizure condition triggered by the camera flash. Logan comes out of a session with Missy acting tranquilized as before, no doubt undergoing one of her hypnosis sessions. Missy says to him that they are “very happy that you’re yourself again,” the identity reference turning out to be very ironic. Logan and his wife leave so he can rest. Dean says they are going to get the party going with “bingo and sparklers.” Wow, these older rich white folks know how to have fun.
The supposedly concerned Rose says she and Chris need a walk. Chris tells her when they are alone that he has a relative who has epilepsy and what Logan experienced was not a seizure. Rose argues that her father is a neurosurgeon (a person who physically deals with the brain while his wife does so psychologically), so she accepts his diagnosis. She admits that she just met Logan that day. But Chris says that the alarmed man was someone he recognized, which turns out to be literally true, and also symbolically accurate as Logan is a black brother who knows the danger white people have inflicted upon African Americans. Chris says he wants to leave. Rose acts upset because she suggests he will go without her if she wants to stay. Chris relates more details to Rose about the night his mother was killed by a hit-and-run driver. She did not die immediately. She bled and suffered on the side of the road, “cold and alone.” We now know why the fate of the deer, which suffered the same way as his mother, had personal significance for Chris. He blames himself that he did not call when she was late so that someone could have gone looking for her. Chris says he will not abandon Rose the way he feels that he was not there for his mother. Rose says they should leave, and they tell each other that they love each other, which makes what happens especially cruel.
While the two are having this conversation, we witness a frightening, silent auction. At the spot where the gazebo and chairs are, Dean holds up fingers as the seated white people display shaded numbers on their bingo cards. A large photograph of Chris is facing the audience. Dean’s gestures show the progress of the bidding for Chris. The blind man, Jim Hudson, who is envious of Chris’s eyes, wins. What we have here is a current day slave auction taking place.
Chris sent the picture of Logan to Rod, who does some research and finds out that Logan is really Andre Hayworth who they both knew had dated a mutual acquaintance. Chris says that not only his clothes but his manner changed and he arrived with a white woman thirty years older. Of course Rod comically proclaims it’s proof of his “sex slave” conspiracy theory. He is very funny as he says Chris has to get out of there because he is in an Eyes Wide Shut situation.
Chris’s phone battery dies in the middle of the conversation. Chris tells Rose they have to go right away and she leaves the room to pack. He happens to notice a small door is ajar that leads to a storage area in the bedroom (a bit of a contrived plot device). There is a box with photographs in it. Chris now realizes Rose has been lying to him. There are shots of her cuddling numerous black men, and there is even one with her next to Georgina with unprocessed hair. It is interesting that Chris, the photographer, learns about Rose through photographs, which are meant to reveal the truth about their subjects.
Rose surprises him as he closes the door to the storage closet. She says she hasn’t found the keys to the car in her bag yet. Brother Jeremy is twirling a broom in front of the house door, as if on guard. Missy and Dean are also there as Chris becomes increasingly worried. Dean starts talking mysteriously, asking what is Chris’s purpose in life? We soon find out what Dean thinks it is. He implies it by saying everything dies, but he says they actually are immortal, but wrapped in “cocoons,” which means our bodies. Jeremy swings the broomstick at Chris, who yells for the keys, but Rose now drops her charade, and holds up the keys in her hand, saying Chris knows she can’t give them to him. Jeremy, who is still trying to prove he has physical superiority over a black man, wants a fight. As soon as Chris grapples with him, Missy taps the teacup she is holding, and Chris falls to the floor, paralyzed as before. Missy commands the men to take Chris to the basement, the one that was supposedly sealed off because of mold. She is concerned that there is no damage done to Chris because that would hinder their plans. Chris is in the “Sunken Place,” as he views from a distance through that tiny psychological window how they drag his body along.
Rod can’t reach Chris on his cell phone. Rod spends some time with Sid at Chris’s apartment, watching television. There is a darkly ironic voice-over from the TV that says, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” which was an advertisement that used to be broadcast by the United Negro College Fund (which is a bit outdated for the current time frame of the film) to advocate that African Americans be given the opportunity to receive a good education. There is also a woman on the television noting the effects of aging. In this story, the white people in the remote community value the young bodies of black persons, but don’t care about their minds. Rod Googles Andre Hayworth, Logan’s real name, and finds he is a missing person. Of course, Rod is now frightened for his friend.
In the finished basement of the Armitage house, complete with ping pong table and dart board, looking very white suburban, the unconscious Chris is seated in an easy chair, with his hands and legs bound. He gasps as he wakes up. There is a deer’s head on the wall facing Chris, which reminds us of the dying deer in the woods, Chris’s mother, and what might happen to Chris. An old video appears on the television screen showing the aged Roman Armitage who says if someone is watching this recording, “you’re probably wondering what's going on.” That statement is not only addressed to Chris, but also to the audience. He says that a person, like Chris, was chosen for his or her physical attributes to be part of something “grand.” Roman goes on to say that something called the “Coagula procedure is a man-made miracle,” as the screen presents an insect exiting a cocoon, which reminds us of what Dean said earlier. IMDb notes that “coagula” means “it joins,” and it refers to an alchemy phrase that deals with transforming matter. Roman talks about his “group” which will benefit from the years of work put into the project and which was perfected by his son, Dean. Roman brings out his then younger family and says that whoever is watching may become “a member of the family.” We now know what is going on. The Armitage family developed a way to transfer the brains of aging white people into the bodies of young, physically fit black people. They are admiring black bodies while marginalizing African American minds, and violently appropriating human beings for their own selfish interests. Walter has Roman’s brain, and Dean’s mother inhabits Georgina. That is how those chosen African Americans become members of “the family.” Roman, inside of Walter, still is running because he never got over being defeated by Jesse Owens, and Georgina answers to no one because she is the family matriarch residing in the young black woman. A cup appears on the screen with a spoon stirring the tea, and the sound again puts Chris into that helpless dream state.
Rod goes to the police, shows Andre’s picture, says Chris has been out of touch for two days in the white suburbs, and tells his hypnosis, brainwashing, sex slave theory to a female African American detective. She keeps a straight face, and invites in two male cops, who listen to Rod. They then break out laughing as the female cop invited them in for some fun. No help here. Rod goes back to Chris’s apartment, writing down his impressions as he tries to work out what is going on. He tries calling Chris again, and Rose answers. Her face is unemotional as she pretends to be worried because she says that Chris became paranoid and “freaked out” on her, leaving two days ago. She says he took a cab, but left his phone, which doesn’t sound right. When Rod smartly asks what cab company Chris used, she then pleads ignorance. He is convinced she is lying, and starts to record her. But when he resumes their conversation, she says he is calling because Rod is attracted to her and wants to have sex with her. He is outraged, protests, and hangs up, voicing how smart she is for throwing suspicion off of herself. During the phone call, Rose’s family stands close to her, like silent ghouls.
Chris wakes up again, and this time the blind man, Jim Hudson, appears on the screen on a two-way live closed-circuit connection. He is in a hospital bed, his head shaved for a medical procedure. Jim laughs and calls Chris, “buddy,” and asks how he’s doing. Given the circumstances, his words are comically nasty. Their conversation is mental preparation, a sort of “psychological pre-op.” Then comes “transplantation,” which is really “partial,” since the “piece” of Chris’s brain connected to his nervous system “needs to stay put, keeping those intricate connections intact.” That is why Georgina and Logan retained some aspect of their prior identities. Jim says Chris’s existence after the surgery will be as a “passenger,” with the white person’s brain in control. During slavery, White owners had control over black persons’ bodies. Here they also have control over their brains. Chris realizes that he will indefinitely live in “the Sunken Place.” Chris asks why African Americans? We see flashbacks of the encounters he had with the white guests as Jim says people want to be “stronger, faster, cooler,” and then we get the statement about how “black is in fashion” repeated. But Jim doesn’t want to be lumped with those superficial reasons. He isn’t racist, he says, but he wants Chris’s artistic vision.
In his struggling in the chair, Chris found that he ripped open the leather armchair covering, revealing tufts of fabric. The TV comes on, and Chris sees the spoon stirring the cup again. Chris appears to be hypnotized as he closes his eyes and sinks into the chair. In the surgery room, Dean removes the top part of Jim’s skull and begins to remove his brain. Jeremy, in scrubs, brings in a wheelchair to collect Chris. After unfastening the restraints, Chris smashes Jeremy’s head with a croquet ball, an appropriately white upper-class object to mete out justice here. Chris pulls out the fabric from his ears that he used to prevent hearing the spoon tinkling against the cup. Peele confirmed that the material is cotton, to refer to the days that slaves were forced to pick the plant in the plantation fields. But here, Peele turns the tables, and the material is used to liberate a black man from subservience. Dean looks for the absent Jeremy. In another very effective image, Chris uses the antlers on the deer’s head to impale Dean. The hunted becomes the hunter, and the oppressed rises up and rebels against the oppressor. Chris has taken the symbol of his helplessness, the deer, a surrogate for his mother, and has overcome his guilt to become empowered.
As Chris tries to get out of the house, he encounters Georgina, who runs out of the kitchen. He sees Missy. The cup and spoon are on a table. He is able to knock the objects off and the cup shatters before she can hypnotize him again, another image of the revolt against privileged dominance. She grabs a letter opener and stabs him through the hand, but Chris overpowers her, and puts the blade through one of her eyes. Somehow Jeremy was able to recover to attack Chris before he gets to the door, putting him in his trademark stranglehold. Chris, looking at his opponent's moves, is now the chess master, and anticipates Jeremy slamming the front door closed, and is able to stab him in the leg. Chris then stomps Jeremy’s head, making sure he is dead this time.
Rose is in a bedroom, listening to music while looking online for the next black victim. Chris gets to a car and calls the police. He is interrupted when he sideswipes Georgina. He decides to try to save what’s left of her original identity and puts her in the car. She, however, wakes up and attacks Chris, saying he ruined her house, which is really Grandma Armitage talking. Chris runs the car into a tree. Rose heard the commotion and comes out with a shotgun, shooting at Chris, which is what Chris comically said he was worried about. She is now calling Georgina “Grandma,” making us laugh uneasily. “Grandpa” Walter tackles Chris, but Chris is able to use the flash on his camera. Walter gets enlightenment, as it were, with the light going off. He loses his hat and there is the surgical scar that was hidden by it, as Georgina’s hair hid hers, and Logan’s hat covered his. He tells Rose to give him the gun to “finish” it. Walter shoots Rose and then kills himself as he would rather be dead than remain a slave.
As Rose reaches for the shotgun, Chris pushes it away. She tries to seduce him by saying she is sorry and that she loves him. He begins to strangle her, but relents. A police car arrives, and there is the thought that Chris will be blamed for murder, stressing in our society that white lives matter more than black ones. But, in a nice twist, Rod is there in an airport security car. With a fellow African American man as the policeman, Chris is allowed his righteous justice. And, the evil Rose now is the one left to die alone on the road, just like the deer, and Chris’s mother.
After a week break, the next film is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Sunday, September 29, 2019
SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.
There are far too many incidents where a male goes off the deep end and becomes violent, sometimes killing his family before committing suicide. Falling Down tells a story about one such individual, but the character is complex, and there is an attempt here to explore why these individuals who feel broken by the hopelessness of their lives are ticking time bombs. The movie starts out with a close-up of the face of Michael Douglas who plays D-Fens, (the name used in the film’s credits), his mouth and then his eyes, which stresses how he views things. It’s a hot day and it is claustrophobic in his car, adding to the pressure cooker sensation experienced by the main character. He and others are caught in a massive traffic jam in Los Angeles. While they are waiting, a woman is doing her make-up and children are playing catch in a bus, trying to deal with the situation. The camera presents an American Flag, implying what America has become, a vision of life going nowhere.
D-Fens looks nerdy with his eyeglasses, white shirt and tie. He has a crew cut which makes him, contradictorily, look like a military man, maybe suggesting he wants to get out and attack. He is observing his surroundings, appearing tense, as the Garfield window doll and people honking and yelling on their cellphones are adding to his frustration. Bumper stickers say, “Financial Freedom,” which we discover the main character does not have, and “Christ Died for Our Sins,” although D-Fens does not feel redeemed. One sticker indicates a lack of caring about others with the words, “How am I driving? Dial 1-800- Eat Shit.” D-Fens’s A/C isn’t working and flies pester him. Even his window handle won’t work. He starts to swat insects all over the car, as he appears unhinged. He gets out of his car with his briefcase, looking like a man at the end of his workday, but appearances are deceiving. He upsets the man in the vehicle behind him since the abandoned car will add to the traffic problem. De-Fens tells the man he’s “going home,” which we all want to do, but with this man we learn he really doesn’t have a place he can escape to.
He starts to walk between the stopped vehicles toward an underpass embankment as he begins his urban odyssey. Detective Prendergast (Robert Duvall) happens to be behind D-Fens’s car. He sees a billboard that depicts a woman’s blouse that is low cut, and there is a superimposed drawing of a fellow on her upper chest who appears to be climbing out of the piece of clothing. Prendergast laughs, showing he can keep his sense of humor despite the situation. Prendergast exits his car and notices that the abandoned car’s license plate says, “D-Fens.” A motorcycle cop comes by and tells Prendergast that he is calling for a towing vehicle, which Prendergast realizes is overkill and takes too long, despite it being the proper procedure. The detective says they should just push the abandoned over to the side. The motorcycle cop says there are high speed vehicles that make that move dangerous, which shows how the cop’s rigid bureaucratic adherence is blind to the fact that nobody is moving. The civilian says D-Fens said he was going home. As the two policemen push the car aside, the civilian driver, despite the inappropriateness of the situation, makes a sales pitch for linoleum and ceramics to the cops, showing how capitalism dominates no matter what is going on. The motorcycle cop is sarcastic, saying “lucky me,” when Prendergast informs the officer he caught him on his last day as a policeman, and he becomes angry when Prendergast grabs his bike so it won’t fall. Not the best attitude to bond with others.
Beth (Barbara Hershey), the ex-wife of D-Fens, is returning home to her house at the beach with her daughter, Adele (Joey Singer). D-Fens calls on a public phone, but can’t get himself to say hello. He walks through a seedy graffiti-covered section of the city. He goes to a food market store and becomes more frustrated because he can’t get more change for a phone call unless he buys something. The owner, Mr. Lee (Michael Paul Chan), behind the counter speaks broken English, which makes it difficult for D-Fens to understand, fueling his anger. He announces that the soda he picked up is too expensive to get change for the call. He wants to bargain for a lower price. His American xenophobia surfaces, telling Mr. Lee the owner wants to take his money but won’t, “even learn my language,” arguing that is a prerequisite to be a worthwhile citizen. He lumps all Asian cultures together, so even though the man is Korean, he assumes he is from China. D-Fens says his country has given a great deal of money to Korea, and gets into a physical altercation with the man. A collection of souvenir flags spills to the ground, symbolic of the sullied image of America being presented by D-Fens’s actions to the audience, but also indicating how D-Fens internally feels that his country has declined by letting in unworthy immigrants. He grabs the baseball bat (a very American symbol) the shopkeeper reached for and begins smashing items in the store. The frightened Korean man tells D-Fens to take his money. Outraged, D-Fens says he’s not a thief, that the Korean is a crook for charging so much for the soda. D-Fens does not see himself as a criminal, but a man who feels he has been disenfranchised from the American Dream. He says he is rolling back prices to 1965 as he stands up for his rights as an “American consumer.” He channels the anger of many working-class people who feel they are being exploited. He asks the price of different products, and then smashes the displays as the owner announces the high numbers. He stops only when Mr. Lee agrees to the fifty cents D-Fens is willing to pay for his soft drink. De-Fens pays that amount, and walks out with his first acquired weapon, the stumpy wooden bat. However, D-Fens’s violence shows he has a pathology which goes deeper than just feeling disillusioned with the direction of the country.
Prendergast finds sand in a drawer of his desk, as his fellow cops play a prank on him about retiring to Arizona. They joke about how one man was run down two minutes after leaving the office on his last day by an impounded vehicle. It turns out that their joke foreshadows the serious situation that Prendergast will encounter. Sandy (Rachel Ticotin), who is Prendergast’s ex-partner, asks if he will be leaving early since it’s his last day. His conscientiousness and reluctance show when he doesn’t see why he shouldn’t put in a full day of work, even though he has been lately relegated to a desk. He looks at a photo of a young girl, and his look is sad, suggesting that his daughter died.
There is then a good segue scene showing D-Fens’s girl, Adele, as she plays with a water pistol (more foreshadowing), linking the main characters’ lives concerning children and Prendergast’s profession. It is the daughter’s birthday, and the mother is on the phone talking about a party, causing D-Fens to become even more frustrated by a busy signal as he tries again to call his family. He walks past an ominous set of large block-printed graffiti which repeats the word “KILL” several times (additional foreshadowing).
Prendergast gets a phone call from his needy wife, Amanda (Tuesday Weld) who is worried that he was making the move to Arizona because of her. He dodges the issue by saying that the main thing is that they are together. She is so insecure that she wants him home right away. So, he has marital problems, as does D-Fens. He has a snow globe in his hand and he sings, “London Bridge is falling down,” referring to the British bridge that was moved to Arizona, and where they will be going. But, we now get the reference for the title of the film, although in this story it is America, from the point of view of D-Fens, that is “falling down.” Prendergast cheers her up by getting her to sing along, and calls her “my fair lady,” the line from the song, which shows his affection for Amanda.
D-Fens looks at the city through a hole in his shoe, another image of how his view of America is from the perspective of a person on a low rung of the social ladder. He picks up an abandoned classified ads section which has circles around the previous owner’s job prospects that probably didn’t pan out. He uses the paper to cover the hole in the shoe, which is all the ads are good for, employment prospects not being plentiful for people in this poor section of town. Two Latino men approach D-Fens, harassing him, saying he is trespassing on private property and loitering. White people might sympathize with the Caucasian guy here, feeling that all he is doing is walking through an area that is different racially from where he comes from. Even though the action of the men is not justified, it suggests the many times a person of a different skin color was targeted for walking through a white neighborhood and charged with the same offenses. Also, for many impoverished people, their neighborhood is all they have left. D-Fens says there were no signs telling him to not sit there. One of the Latino men says the graffiti is a sign that warns to stay away. D-Fens sounds reasonable when he says that this is a territorial dispute and he respects that this area is their home. He says he understands their argument because he wouldn’t want them on his property. His remarks sound bigoted, but as we see later his anger is not just ethnically driven. But, they won’t just let him move on, saying he must pay a toll. They want his briefcase, which he refuses to turn over. One of the men flashes a knife. D-Fens, again erupting in frustrated rage, grabs the bat hidden behind the briefcase, and clubs the men, who flee, as he throws the bat at one of them. He tells them to “clear a path” since he declares again that he is going home. He picks up the knife of one of the young men, replacing the bat with a weapon dedicated solely to harm.
In contrast, the retiring Prendergast turns in his weapon as he looks at a newspaper article about a policeman getting shot, possibly indicating his reluctance to retire and give up the fight against lawbreakers. Mr. Lee shows up to report how his market was trashed. He is brought to Prendergast, but after explaining there was no robbery (Prendergast’s assigned department), since the man took no money and actually paid for his soda, the crime is reclassified as an assault. Lee says the man took his bat which he used for “defense.” It doesn’t click just yet with Prendergast about the license plate that said “D-Fens.”
Members of the Latino gang go searching for D-Fens, along with a young woman, Angie (Karina Arroyave), who urges them to let go of their desire for revenge and get treated at the hospital. De-Fens calls his wife again and says he is coming home for his daughter’s birthday. Beth says he can’t come home, she has custody of the child now and he doesn't even have the means to pay support, so he has no paternal privileges. She says it is not his home anymore and Adele is doing fine without him. These words hit at his failure as a parent. We now realize that he is not just some frustrated worker who was caught in traffic trying to get home. He has had severe financial and marital problems, and she is his ex-wife, who is afraid of his unstable behavior which pre-existed today’s events. Beth threatens to call the police.
The gang of youths find De-Fens talking on the pay phone. They kick Angie out of the car, probably because they believe they are doing men’s work, which amounts to acts of revenge. These guys have quite an arsenal of guns. They begin shooting automatic weapons, missing De-Fens who is behind some cars and instead they wound innocent bystanders. The gang members drive their car erratically as they try to wound De-Fens, and get into a terrible accident. Only one member is conscious. De-Fens is unfeeling about the bystanders who were shot as he approaches the car and simply says, “You missed.” He picks up one of the weapons and shoots the awake youth in the leg, acting like he is giving him a lesson on how awful it is to get shot. De-Fens takes their bag of armaments and tells the conscious car victim he needs to take shooting lessons. There are complicated emotions at work here in the presentation of the story. On the one hand we may be outraged by these violent youths who have no respect or decency for the welfare of others. But De-Fens, who acts like a vigilante who is demonstrating the anger due to wrongs inflicted on law-abiding citizens, is also unfeeling in his actions toward others, and also breaks laws because he feels he has a higher purpose to right wrongs.
Prendergast has an exit meeting with his captain, Yardley (Raymond J. Barry), a white self-absorbed macho guy who is seen punching a boxing bag in his office, turning the room into a gym. Yardley is condescending, acting like Prendergast is going out on early retirement with a reduced pension because he couldn’t cut it anymore. He implies that it may be due to Prendergast getting wounded, so he is safe now at a desk job. Prendergast is very deferential, and says no, it has nothing to do with his injury. The captain then asks about Prendergast’s kids, but he has none, since he lost his daughter, which shows how little Yardley knows about his own men.
De-Fens watches poor people on the street, with one man trying to sell stuff and another holding up a sign that reads he will work for food, which most likely adds more proof of his country’s decline. De-Fens tries to walk through an area but he meets another obstacle because there is a closed section where construction is being done. Meanwhile, Beth has called the police and talks with a cop. The film continues to add details about De-Fens’s personality. She confirms that she has a restraining order because of her ex-husband’s bad temper. She says that he never hit the child but there were times when she ran away before he could harm his wife. Beth says he has the potential for hurting others, which has been borne out by this day’s actions.
A man in the park (John Fleck) tells De-Fens that he drove from Santa Barbara and needs money and asks to lend him some cash that he will send back to De-Fens. The suspicious De-Fens wants to see his driver’s license. The man says he doesn’t have a license. De-Fens than questions how he drove a long way with no license. The guy says he hasn’t eaten in days, but he is munching on a sandwich. The beggar then has the audacity to demand money, which De-Fens refuses to give, and tells him to get a job. The man wants one of D-Fens’s bags that he can sell. De-Fens makes a decision here when he says he no longer needs the briefcase and gives it to him. This action shows he has quit attempting to be a working man who fits into society and instead embraces the bag of guns because he is bent on destroying whatever obstacles that stand in his way. The briefcase only contains lunch food, which confirms that De-Fens’s appearance of being a working man is a fake. We have here the depiction of the marginalized American white male’s anger being directed toward those he considers to be unproductive members of society who want to siphon off the hard-earned wages of the working class. This perspective however does not take into account the dire plight of the working man which may be due to exploitative employers, and does not consider how poverty-stricken members of society have been penalized by punitive aspects of a profit-driven economy.
Prendergast sees the young Latino woman, Angie, who was in the gang’s car that went after De-Fens, being interrogated. Prendergast does not yet know that Mr. Lee’s market and the drive-by shooting are connected. When the woman mentions a white guy with a baseball bat he barges in and confirms that the man had on a white shirt and tie. The detective kicks Prendergast out, not valuing the retiring veteran policeman’s help. But Prendergast looks at a city map and can see how the two altercations fit together geographically and chronologically.
De-Fens tries to order breakfast at a fast food restaurant just three minutes after the time that service ends. The employee is smug in her denial of him being able to order what he wants. De-Fens is similar to Jack Nicholson’s character in The Last Detail and Paul Newman’s Cool Hand Luke in that he is rebelling against the constricting rules closing in around him. De-Fens then asks for the manager, who is just as insensitive, not agreeing with De-Fens’s reminder that the “customer is always right,” a public relations line that isn’t even aspired to at this point. De-Fens pulls out an automatic weapon, which accidentally goes off, firing shots into the ceiling. De-Fens is amusing as he still tries to be normal in the midst of his antisocial behavior. He tries to placate the customers, saying he means them no harm and wants them to continue enjoying their food, as if that’s possible at this point. De-Fens almost sounds shaken as he asks again quietly for his breakfast, which they immediately give him. The implication is that an average person must resort to extreme means just to be treated fairly. De-Fens then changes his mind and wants lunch. He walks around the restaurant asking if everybody is doing okay, not in touch with the emotional trauma he has inflicted on them. When he asks one woman if she is enjoying her lunch the lady vomits out of fear, and De-Fens quips she must not like the special sauce. De-Fens is then critical of the squashed hamburger he receives which contrasts with the photograph on the wall of a large beef patty. In a way he is articulating the public’s feelings about being treated badly. But, he refuses, although dangerously, to submit to the mistreatment, unlike most submissive people.
Prendergast has lunch with Sandy. She questions his move to Arizona, noting that the decision is his wife’s idea. Prendergast says his wife only had her looks to fall back on when she was younger, and she is not handling getting older well, so he is accommodating her wishes. And he adds that the main reason he is being unselfish is because, “I love her,” which is the most important redemptive characteristic of human beings. Prendergast stands in contrast to De-Fens because the policeman can deal with the traffic jam, his family issues, and his job situation, in a civilized manner, at least up to this point, whereas De-Fens has snapped because he cannot deal with these conflicts.
Another detective interrupts their lunch, reporting the incident at the fast food restaurant. The cop says that it was odd that the man paid for his lunch. Prendergast, showing he still has game when it comes to being an investigator, remembers that the man who busted up Mr. Lee’s market also paid for his soda. He tells Sandy to find out if the man at the fast food place wore a white shirt and tie. She later calls him back and confirms the clothes, but informs Prendergast that he doesn’t have a baseball bat but was instead carrying a bag full of guns, which demonstrates how the lethal potential of his choice of weapons is escalating.
As De-Fens walks through the city’s depressed area, he encounters an African American man (Vondie Curtis-Hall) picketing in front of a savings and loan building, carrying a sign which reads, “Not Economically Viable.” He shouts out that is why the bank denied his application for a loan. He is arrested and says that is what happens to people who are “not economically viable.” The thrust here is that once a person falls on hard times the rules are rigged against him to try to recover. As the police car stops next to De-Fens, the black man says to De-Fens, “Don’t forget me.” As IMDb notes, the man and De-Fens are wearing the same type of clothes, even duplicating the tie pattern, which shows how De-Fens feels connected to this black man. De-Fens nods his head, as if promising that he, for one, knows what can happen to the unsuccessful in society. As the man is taken away, De-Fens buys a child’s snow globe (echoing Prendergast’s London Bridge globe) as a birthday gift for his daughter. He places this innocent child’s object, ironically, in the same bag next to the weapons. Later, when a man complains that De-Fens is hogging the public phone booth, De-Fens destroys the booth with gunfire. He again shows his dark humor by saying, “it’s out of order.” De-Fens has progressed to the point that he is beyond accommodating anything that gets in his way or questions his actions, which shows the danger of unrestrained individuality.
The hole in De-Fens’s shoe is getting worse. He goes into an Army surplus store. The owner is a neo-Nazi named Nick (Frederick Forrest) who listens to a police scanner. As he shows De-Fens some hiking shoes he shouts derogatory comments at a couple of presumably gay men in the store. De-Fens shows here, as he did with the protesting African American, that he is not prejudicial toward any one type of group. He doesn’t like anybody who acts badly, which includes the white workers at the restaurant or this fellow as he pulls out a handgun when one of the gay men confronts him.
Prendergast tells Angie he knows she is telling the truth about the white man who attacked her gang friends. But, he also correctly concludes that De-Fens took a gym bag full of guns off of her friends and asks Angie to confirm the number of weapons. She says there were “lots of guns,” not exactly a positive argument endorsing the proliferation of firearms.
Meanwhile, De-Fens sees a police car park near the store, and Sandy and her partner approach the establishment. Sandy questions Nick, asking if he saw a man in his late thirties, who was wearing a white shirt and a tie, and carrying a gym bag. De-Fens is in a fitting room trying on shoes. Nick pushes the gym bag out of sight and lies by saying he hasn’t seen De-Fens. He then closes the store. Nick brings De-Fens in the back which has all kinds of weapons and military gear, including Nazi books and war souvenirs. He says he heard about De-Fens’s activities during the day on the scanner, and starts to use anti-Semitic and black racial slurs. He keeps saying he is backing De-Fens because, “we’re the same, you and me.” De-Fens says they are not the same, distancing himself from this man by saying, “I’m an American,” which to De-Fens means all of those qualities that he feels are worthy, including, “freedom of speech, the right to disagree!” He calls Nick, “a sick asshole.” Nick is outraged and tries to handcuff De-Fens while spouting his racist language. De-Fens tells Nick he can’t spread his legs, lean forward, and also have his hands cuffed behind him because of “gravity,” explaining “I’ll fall down.” This is another reference to the title of the movie, suggesting that he and the rest of the country’s people are all in this precarious position. (As IMDb notes, Nick’s extreme disgust about homosexuals mingled with his preoccupation with male rape in prison, along with him standing in a position that implies he may sexually assault the bent over and bound D-Fens, suggests that Nick may be gay, and is in deep denial). When Nick takes the snow globe out of the gym bag and throws it, smashing it, De-Fens stabs him with the knife he took from the Latino man, meting out some ironic justice that takes down the bigot with a person of color’s weapon. This irony is suggested by Nick’s statement, “This isn’t one of mine.” Nick looks at his wound and says, “Oh my God,” to which De-Fens again mixes in dark humor by saying that Nick gets it, because he’s exercising “freedom of religion.” Instead of leaving, De-Fens again goes too far and shoots Nick.
Prendergast tries to do his job on his last day by trying to convince Captain Yardley and the other cops working the case involving De-Fens that he has evidence that the incidents are tied together, and the perpetrator is heading west. The captain dismisses Prendergast’s argument, and tells him he doesn’t like Prendergast because he never heard him curse, claiming that is the sign of “real men.” He also claims that Prendergast was afraid to go back into the streets. Prendergast assures him he wasn’t afraid, not saying that he took the desk job to soothe his wife’s fears. The captain here reveals his macho prejudice, showing that there are nasty people on both sides of the law. Sandy decides to help him on his quest which is in counterpoint to De-Fens’s law-breaking journey.
De-Fens calls his wife and sounds menacing, saying he is on his way home, and he realizes that he can’t turn around because his actions have put him, “past the point of no return.” He compares himself to the Apollo 13 astronauts who had to go around the dark side of the moon before reemerging and heading back to earth. He seems to know that he has gone to the “dark side” of his soul and now has reappeared as someone who can’t go back to trying to fit in with the rest of society. Even though the police who had stayed a while at her house after Beth called have now left, she lies to her ex-husband, saying they are there. De-Fens is now frightening in his single-mindedness, intimidating Beth by saying there are countries that say it’s okay, “to kill your wife if she insults you.” His argument in favor of free speech seems not to extend to one’s spouse.
Prendergast and Sandy arrive near Mr. Lee’s store to question him. After getting out of the car, Prendergast looks up and sees the billboard that a graffiti artist painted on. He is at the same spot where he was earlier in the day in the traffic jam. He now remembers the guy who left his car close to where the crimes took place. He recalls the personalized license plate read “D-Fens.” He sees Mr. Lee and calls out “Defense,” which is what the shopkeeper said he kept his bat for. Prendergast tells Sandy to find out the address associated with the plate, since a witness said the man said he was going home.
We are in another traffic snarl as people sink to their baser natures, calling each other ugly names while stuck in a sea of cars. (Too bad they don’t sing and dance as they do in La La Land, but that was a fantasy). De-Fens punches one driver who is yelling ugly epithets at a woman, shutting down the bad behavior he has been ranting against. He has traded in his white-collar outfit for what he found in the surplus store, and he now looks like a soldier, wearing what GI’s put on when going on a mission in a jungle, which is how De-Fens perceives this urban sprawl. The traffic is a mess because the street is closed off for repairs. A worker tells De-Fens he can’t pass there (not a good day to tell De-Fens he can’t do something), and that he is there to stop people from “falling in” due to the underground construction (another reference to the film’s title). De-Fens tells the worker that the street was fine two days ago and believes there’s nothing wrong, that they are just keeping inflated budgets by acting as if work has to be completed. He again voices complaints that one can hear from any average person who has suffered because of forces beyond one’s control. The worker sees a gun tucked in De-Fens’s pants. De-fens keeps demanding that the worker say what he wants to hear, that there is nothing that needs repair. Afraid, the worker tells him that there’s nothing wrong, which satisfies De-Fens, who is so self-righteous in his crusade, he won’t allow anything to contradict him. De-Fens then says that he will give him something to fix. He took a rocket launcher from the surplus store. A boy on a bike tells him how to use it because he saw how to do it on TV, satirizing the questionable skills exposed to children through the media. But the boy here innocently thinks that they are filming a show, which De-Fens, joking ironically, calls “Under Construction.” The phallic-shaped launcher and the guns could represent De-Fens trying to regain his masculinity. De-Fens prematurely (another sexual reference?), triggers the weapon, releasing his anger, firing the device under the street causing a large explosion.
Prendergast and Sandy arrive at the home of De-Fens’s mother (Lois Smith), which is where the license plate led them. De-Fens’s real name is William Foster. One of the walls in the house has pictures of a man in a military uniform, presumably De-Fens’s father. There are small American flags in a vase. The impression is that this was a patriotic family, which points to the feeling that his country has now failed De-Fens. The mother is herself defensive, and Sandy alienates her by acting official. But, Prendergast wins her over by praising her display of little crystal figurines. The woman shows them her son’s room which is very neat. She thinks he is still working at a defense plant. Prendergast senses the mother’s wariness about talking about her son. He believes she knows something is wrong with him. He gets her to reveal that her son sometimes won’t even speak at dinner. The mother says De-Fens eats like a machine and she is so nervous she chews the same piece of food. When she spits it out she says he looks at her like he will kill her. We get a picture of a disturbed control freak who can’t handle things not going the way he wants. Prendergast finds De-Fens’s wedding ring in a drawer and a picture of his ex-wife and child. Prendergast finds out the ex-wife’s maiden name is Trevino and Sandy discovers that De-Fens was fired from his job a month ago, suggesting that his mental instability was already becoming manifest for a while.
De-Fens, not following any restrictions on freedom, climbs a fence that says “No Trespassing” onto a private golf course. He tells some senior men that he is passing through. One of the men is an elitist who yells about how he doesn’t want someone from the outside interrupting his game. He hits a ball at De-Fens, who pulls out a shotgun, and calls back that he is trying to kill him with a golf ball because of his silly game. He says that the land should be used for children and families to have picnics and enjoy a petting zoo, implying the area has been cut off for those who can afford the expensive fees. He shoots their electric golf cart which then rolls off toward a water hazard. The man who hit the golf ball falls down (referring to the title again), appearing to have a heart attack. He gasps that his pills are in the cart. De-Fens has no sympathy for the damage he is causing, as if the man has received justice for trying to prevent De-Fens from passing through the fairway. He tells the suffering man he’ll die wearing his silly little hat. For De-Fens, his will supersedes the lives of others at this point.
De-Fens scales another fence as he has moved from the poor side of town to the rich one, and he sees wrongdoing no matter the economic area. He complains to a man who is having a cookout with his wife and little daughter that his barbed wire caused him to cut his hand, as if he has the right to go wherever he pleases. The man is actually the caretaker and he is barbecuing there while the owner is away. Once De-Fens realizes that these people are not part of the exclusive upper class, his anger subsides. The people at the golf course have called the police, and De-Fens moves the family under cover. He finds out that a plastic surgeon owns the property. De-Fens jokes and says he is in the wrong field, and wonders if there are “correspondence courses” for that medical specialty. But, while he is trying to be funny, he holds onto the child’s hand, as if substituting her for his daughter. De-Fens confesses that he was fired, and is “obsolete,” (which hints that part of the reason, which happens to many people, may be he was replaced by automation) and can’t even support his daughter. He echoes the situation of the African American man who was arrested, and most likely many others, saying he’s “not economically viable.” De-Fens is astounded again for being viewed as a bad person when the man asks to be a hostage, but to leave his family alone. De-Fens says that he has no desire to harm the man’s family. He then reminisces about how ideal things were with his family and mentally escapes into a daydream fantasy about how everything will be the way it was.
At the police station, Prendergast and Sandy check out Beth’s single name, Trevino, linked with Foster, De-Fens’s name. Prendergast learns about the murder of the surplus store owner. Sandy reveals that she visited the store earlier. Then they get word about the man dressed in military clothes who terrorized the men at the golf course and the family at the doctor’s home. Prendergast looks at De-Fens’s progress on the map and deduces that the ex-wife lives in Venice even before Sandy provides the address.
Beth called the police after De-Fens’s threatening phone call, but the policewoman who arrives at her house shows no compassion, acting like it’s just a prank. Only Prendergast and Sandy seem to really care about following through on the case. De-Fens calls Beth from Santa Monica Pier, which is right next to Venice, and talks about how the ice cream shop they frequented no longer is there. She immediately hangs up as she realizes he is very close and takes her daughter out of the house. He quickly understands that she may try to escape, but when he arrives at her home, they are gone. De-Fens looks at home videos of his family when he lived there. He now has the daughter’s water pistol replacing the real gun he held before, showing how torn this man is between his affection for his family and his pathological violent impulses to have things his way. But the home movies dispel his idealized version of the past. They reveal how domineering he was, yelling at his family, and scaring his daughter who cried as he tried to force her onto a toy horse he bought.
The Venice cops tell Sandy in a phone call that they can’t justify a visit three times in one day to satisfy the complaints of a “hysterical” woman. This is a flaw in the plot because it is difficult to believe that they would not investigate when other cops call them verifying the danger Beth is in. So, we have the main characters move to a confrontation on the Santa Monica Pier (which shows up in several Hollywood films). Before that happens, Prendergast takes on some of De-Fens’s aggression, finally setting his wife straight. She calls him and is jealous that Sandy answered the phone and yells at him to come home. He tells her to “shut up” and have dinner waiting for him when he gets to his house, as Sandy stifles laughter on the side. And, when Sandy’s partner makes a negative remark about Prendergast’s wife, the retiring cop responds to the insult to Amanda by punching the guy. (This event occurs at an office goodbye party for Prendergast, where, as IMDb points out, there is a retirement cake decorated with the London Bridge, another reminder of the film’s title).
By watching one of the videos De-Fens realizes that Beth may again want to bring their child on her birthday to the pier, and maybe Beth would not think that he would go back there after going to her house. Prendergast and Sandy arrive at Beth’s house. Sandy goes in and De-Fens shoots her and escapes. Prendergast gets the neighbors to call 911 and he goes after De-Fens. Beth and her daughter are at the pier and the girl is thrilled to see her father running toward them. He hugs and kisses Beth who says she wants him to leave them alone. He reminds her that they made vows that said “‘till death do us part,” which is frightening considering the circumstances, and he then pulls out a handgun.
She says he is sick, and De-Fens says that walking through the city is what’s really sick. Prendergast shows up and acts folksy, not confrontational, eating a snack, and saying he used to fish off the pier, but the fish are now poisonous, and the water can infect a swimmer. He says he is retiring to a place that some would call paradise, and others would say there is nothing but a muddy lake there. Prendergast says everyone has their own idea of paradise, which connects to De-Fens’s concept of perfection for himself and America. While Prendergast talks he flashes his revolver at Beth to show he’s a cop. Prendergast says that paradise for him was having babies. He said his wife had a child for him which tells us why he is now willing to sacrifice for her. He says that his daughter was two years old, went to sleep, and didn’t wake up, which connects with De-Fens’s feelings of loss. Prendergast hands popcorn to Adele who shares it with her father, as he puts his gun down. De-Fens is distracted as he hears police sirens, and Prendergast intervenes, getting Beth and the girl to run away. Prendergast says he knows that De-Fens was going there to kill his family and then himself. De-Fens is surprised to realize he is now “the bad guy.” He says he helped build missiles to protect America, and should be rewarded, not punished. De-Fens says they lied to him about who gets rewarded. Prendergast says they lie to everybody, so that doesn’t make De-Fens special, only his little girl does. Prendergast wants him to give up. De-Fens says he has a gun and they should have a showdown, as if they are in a Hollywood Western. He says if he gets killed at least his daughter will get the life insurance, and he doesn’t want to see his girl grow up while he’s in prison. He counts to three and draws, but he only has his daughter’s water pistol, so he knows he’s going to die. Prendergast doesn’t know the gun is a fake, fires, and after being shot, De-Fens falls into the Pacific Ocean, an affront to its peaceful name.
Captain Yardley, now in front of the press and trying to grab positive publicity, hypocritically now praises Prendergast. Prendergast passes by the cameras and as the captain thanks him, Prendergast now finds the right time to curse and tells him “Fuck you very much.” He sees Sandy off to the hospital and tells Beth to let her daughter enjoy her birthday party without mentioning her father to keep her in an innocent state for another day. In answer to Adele’s question about his name, he says it’s “Mud,” which he says it will be when his wife finds out he decided to still be a cop. The movie seems to be saying that there is a need for him and other decent individuals to try to keep the country from “falling down.”
The next film is Get Out.