Two innocent people are arrested. An interesting third person, with broken English, joins them in their cell. On his idea, they decide to escape from the prison. Their journey is the rest of the movie.
As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers.
DJ Zack and pimp Jack end up in prison for being too laid-back to avoid being framed for crimes they didn't commit. They end up sharing a cell with eccentric Italian optimist Roberto, whose limited command of the English language is both entertaining and infuriating. More useful to them is the fact that Roberto knows an escape route.Written by
Michael Brooke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Actor John Lurie, one of the three prisoners on the run, also composed the music score for this movie. See more »
Zack writes the number of the days that he's spent in cellar on the wall. Before he fights Jack for the first time, he angrily writes two big lines (two days). In the next scene with Roberto they are normal length. See more »
Julie, what're you doing out here?
Just watching the light change.
See more »
While his later and more acclaimed works such 'Night on Earth' and 'Dead Man' may well be better films, this is the one that catapulted Jim Jarmusch to the forefront of obscure American cinema in the 1980's, and aside from that fact; it's a hell of a lot of fun, and fans of Jarmusch, and just fans of obscure cool cinema in general will find lots to like about it. Treading a line between a classic prison movie and an odd comedy, Down by Law works on several levels. The premise of the film is simple, as we follow three rather different convicts that end up in the same cell in a penitentiary. Despite this being a simple base for a movie, Jim Jarmusch really makes the best of his premise and the three characters he has created to inhabit the jail cell are all unique enough to each other in order to make sure that the film is always interesting, and that the characters have a good chemistry with one another, so that the dialogue flows freely and that it's quirky nature is able to be revved up to the top.
Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni take the lead three roles and although the former two actors are no doubt good in their roles, as usual it is Benigni that steals the show. His over the top style fits his over the top character like a glove and although Benigni isn't the sort of actor that can adapt to many different roles; when he's got one that fits him, he's pretty much unbeatable. The film's plot starts out slow, and the first half hour in which two of the three leads are introduced isn't all that exciting. It's when the three men get put inside that Down by Law really starts, and every minute from then on is a pleasure. Like he would with Dead Man nine years later, Jarmusch has opted to film Down by Law in a very stark black and white, which, also like Dead Man, increases the surrealism and also helps the film in it's bid to beat the thin plot line with a very potent visual complexity, which will delight fans of this sort of movie. On the whole, Down by Law is an excellent example of offbeat US film-making and I don't hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
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