Previously I had only seen clips of this movie on YT. So I decided to rent it from a store so I could see the whole thing.
At first I was laughing at the antics, kind of identifying with how a guy pushed too long and far could get so PO'd he might get crazy and do some of those things.
Bill, the main character played by Michael Douglas is just fed up. We don't know all the details at the beginning, but we see him abandon his car in a traffic jam and walk away. He just doesn't care what happens to it.
As events unfold we learn of the issues that brought him to this point. One of them being, when you feel like everything is screwed up and will never get better, what have you go to lose?
He goes into a shop and asks for change but is told he has to buy something. The shop owner is not the least bit friendly and this is just one of the issues that has been annoying our unseemly hero. He loses it and does a lot of damage in the shop with a ball bat he ripped away from the shopkeeper. Then he pays for the coke he had on the counter and leaves. He felt justified for busting up the store due to the owners calloused treatment of him, but he is not a thief. This man who has never been aggressive in his whole life is now finding it within himself to inflict violence on those who represent the issues that have put him in the situation he is currently dealing with.
Bill will be confronted by some characters that would normally make a person like him nervous. He is small of frame, not tall, not muscular. He has short hair and he is wearing a white dress shirt and tie with several pens stuffed into a pocket protector. He looks like a geek. But he is so beaten down, so annoyed with it all, he is not scared. He tries to makes sense to two bad dudes who want to rob him but when they won't listen he goes berserk and beats the hell out of them with the bat and the briefcase they planned to steal. In the process, he takes possession of a knife they left behind. Evidently driving off his attackers makes him feel a bit empowered but not yet aggressive.
Later on we will learn his ex-wife has a restraining order on him because she says he scared her. She admits to the police who come to assist her that he had never hurt her, the daughter, or the dog. Is she just a very easily frightened person and has she contributed to make him what he has become? Or did she see something a bit scary in him long before others could see it?
As the movie proceeds Bill goes through a succession of steadily increasingly violent confrontations, sometimes not of his own making. When a gang tries to shoot him down, he stands calmly at a pay phone while bullets hit all around him even taking down innocent bystanders. Evidently gang bangers aren't very good shots. Bill calmly walks around the corner and finds they crashed their car in their haste to escape. Guess they are lousy drivers too. He finds a gym bag full of guns and intimidates one of the wounded bangers by waving gun at him and saying, "You missed". Before he leaves he shoots him in the leg for good measure. Here we see his level of aggression elevate another notch upward.
When he goes to a diner and can't order breakfast because they stopped making it that is just too much for Bill who is now beginning to feel good about his retributions. Even though it doesn't show on the outside, inside his brain is spinning. And now with a bag full of guns he is really feeling empowered. When he accidentally puts a few shots through the roof of the building he is not the least bit fazed, he simply explains it as a sensitive trigger. then when he finally gets his food he tells them it is a lousy excuse for the one in the picture. Which too often is true of the food we get. Most viewers begin to feel as I did, that Bill is a social justice warrior. To see the frightened look on the faces of people similar to ones who have treated us unfairly is refreshing. Bullies, rude service personnel, etc. We like him because he is doing what we sometimes wish we could do but we don't because we fear legal repercussions. We are too civilized to treat rude people the way they deserve.
We learn that all he wants to do is visit with his daughter on her birthday. He is fed up with the system keeping him away from her. It appears he has not seen her in three to four years. All of the things he runs into are just distractions interfering with his plan to see his daughter.
There is a man picketing, protesting against a loan company he feels unfairly treated. They refused him a loan because they claimed he is, "Economically unviable". The man is wearing a white shirt and tie just like our man Bill. The big difference is, he is a black man, not white.
Eventually Bill encounters a shopkeeper who appears even more whacked out than Bill. At first he befriends Bill, even protects him from police who by this time are searching for him in his white shirt. But then the shopkeeper turns against him when even screwed up psychotic Bill sees the evil in him. The shopkeeper tries to handcuff him but Bill finds the knife left behind by his first confrontation and stabs the guy in the shoulder. At first we feel it was justified, the man was purely evil. But then when Bill shoots the guy, we begin to see it is not social justice, Bill is becoming dangerous.
The police officer played by Robert Duvall, who is retiring the day all this is happening is picking up on all these clues about the strange man in the white shirt and tie. He sees the escalation in a way the average viewer may not recognize. He knows Bill is increasingly capable of violence. We don't want to admit Bill could be evil because we sort of like how he is putting people in their place. But the killing of the shopkeeper should have been a red flag.
Bill eventually makes his way to the home of ex-wife where he is NOT supposed to be. He is violating a court order. The wife and daughter fled the house when she realized he was right close in their neighborhood. All I could see at that point was a man desperate to see a daughter he hadn't seen in years. Later, Duvall, and his partner make it to the house, Bill wounds the partner in his escape. She is only wounded slightly in the side so we might not see it as intent to kill. But later as Bill accidentally finds his wife and daughter out on a fishing pier, Duvall finds them together and makes the point that he thinks our Bill was planning to kill the wife and daughter. Suddenly it hit me like a brick. I just thought Bill wanted to see the daughter for her birthday but now we are introduced to the possibility Bill has a terrible dark side. Was he really planning to kill them? Did he just want to see them? We have read in the news of instances where angry men have killed their whole family. We may never know for sure because the movie ends with Bill forcing a shootout with Duvall because he can't imagine life behind bars. And he mentions that his daughter will get his life insurance so that gives us reason to hope he really wasn't going to kill wife and child, or was he?
The shootout sort of gives Bill some vindication as the gun he claimed to have was a bright blue water pistol.
This movie touched on a wide variety of issues and social injustices maybe that's why I liked it so much.