Michael Douglas did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying William "D-Fens" Foster in Falling Down.
Although one can easily look at Falling Down at an easy exploitation feature without all of the scenes taking out flaws and annoyances of society such as traffic, seemingly pointless construction, gangs, bad fast food and more, it is kept from that through the lead performances and characters by Robert Duvall and Michael Douglas. Douglas is always a man in the role of William Foster the former defense contractor worker before being a force of nature against society. I should also say that Robert Duvall is also great in that nearly as flashy role, but important in ground the film as well as acting as the other side of the coin of Douglas's character.
At the beginning of the film we know nothing of Foster other than he seems to be a white collar worker who seems to be stuck in traffic. Douglas from the very beginning though shows that this man most certainly is ready to crack at any moment. You can see all of the pressure building inside of him. There really is a great dynamic between his clean cut hair cut and his proper shirt and tie, compared to Michael Douglas' face although also in many ways technically proper, after all he is not screaming out yet, but there is most certainly some sort of hell going on inside of this man's mind. It is a initial image that perfectly sets up the rest of Douglas's portrayal of Foster.
After this opening sequence we he finally just up and leaves his car to walk home is when his rampage begins. Douglas's slow and deliberate rampage is a peculiar one but brilliantly portrayed. His path begins small enough and at first he really is not instantly hostile just trying to do things as he clearly always had beforehand which is being a proper man in society. Douglas interestingly shows that this is that Foster really is all a bit of a stiff, and Douglas brilliantly portrays him as such. This is brilliant though because Douglas knows how to be a stiff without a being dull or boring which certainly would be the easier approach. Douglas though always has this incredible energy always bubbling just underneath.
In every one of his scenes of outbursts Douglas is extremely effective, and makes the scenes work as well as they possibly could actually. In all of the scenes there is the same troubled emotional state there, which slowly becomes worse and worse as he gets closer to home. Douglas shows how Foster every scene with the utmost efficiency, and his style pretty much goes along with the severity of the societal annoyance. Douglas mediates the rage perfectly in the role to bring out the right reaction in each and every one of his scenes. What is amazing though is that he is both harsh at times fittingly when he does yell showing the rage of Foster at society, but as well he keeps quieter moments in these scenes as well.
Douglas is incredibly chilling in these scenes when he is cold and very blunt in basically showing Foster coming up with judgments regarding dealing with the people. In particular his moment where after a group of gang members fail to kill him in a drive by and crash Douglas does not in anger confront the last living one rather he shows it in a more business like approach, since at the moment Foster is in charge completely. His target practice with the gang member's leg is made frightening by Douglas by just how much he underplays the moment, and shows just how incisive Foster he is about the whole thing.
Something truly special about Douglas's performance though is that he even manages to bring some humor to his performance strangely enough. Obviously the humor of his performance eventually leaves where he gets closer and closer to the end of his rope, but Douglas miraculously manages to bring it even in the roughest of scene without it ever seeming out place. This is really because Douglas takes the few comedic lines he has in along with all of his anger in a quick precise places the work in perfect harmony with the rest of the scene. He doesn't overplay these small moments but he still makes them noticeable that in fact stop his performance from being overbearing as this character easily could have been.
Although this is an extremely effective performance in a visceral sense, but what makes this performance truly something special is the portrait of this man whom Douglas creates. Even though in the end Foster is the villain after all, Douglas never portrays him as such, and instead successfully turns him into a tragic character. Douglas even though does portray Foster as unstable, but not necessarily in nature a terrible man. Douglas rather portrays him as having gone this way in a great number of circumstances, on being his own belief in basically the American dream that he never achieved despite desperately trying to do.
Douglas's final scenes where Foster and Duvall's finally meet is the pivotal moment of the film. Douglas here shows the full extent of how the day has finally worn Foster into a psychotic rage, and his final breaking point at the end of the day. It is a complex moment because he does not turn him into just the rage, but always constantly as well there is the pain of seeing everything that he has lost to bring him to this point. When he is finally confronted by Duvall, Douglas is absolutely heartbreaking in the moment when he realizes he is the bad guy, and that all of what he has done in life has amounted to almost nothing, even though as he puts it, he did everything they told him to. It is surprising moving moment, considering what Foster likely was going to do, but Douglas makes this way because he shows that it just did not have to be this way. This is a great performance by Michael Douglas it is powerful work with a tremendous impact that creates a complex memorable portrait of this man.