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No action, all mood – but it goes down like a cool beer on a hot summer evening
gogoschka-117 July 2014
A cult classic - and yet still relatively little known. Jim Jarmusch is a master when it comes to creating atmosphere (and nobody uses stretches of silence to better comedic effect than he does). Shot in beautiful black and white, this tale of three prisoners who make for very unlikely companions is all mood, deadpan humour and practically no action.

Don't expect a story - just enjoy the ride, the dialogues (consisting mainly of the word 'F***' - unless it's Benigni talking: his chaotic, broken English lines are another highlight of the film) and the fantastic soundtrack by John Lurie and Tom Waits. Perhaps the epitome of a cult movie, this one goes down like a cool beer on a hot summer evening (and as with all cult movies, it is best seen with an audience that already knows and loves the film). A minimalistic comedy masterpiece. 9 stars out of 10.

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A Pure Joy
gavin694216 January 2014
The story of three different men (Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni) in a Louisiana prison and their eventual journey.

This film is a natural progression from "Stranger Than Paradise". Lurie returns as a lead, and the music of Screamin' Jay Hawkins is replaced with Tom Waits. If Hawkins and Waits know each other, I have no idea, but their music styles are not far removed.

Although Waits is among my favorite actors (he excels at playing villains), the standout performance here is Benigni. How much English he knew at the time I am not sure, but he brings a comic mischief to the film, and is the most light-hearted despite being potentially the most dangerous.
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Subtle grace masquerades as jail-break film
sidereal27 December 1998
One of the most frequently heard criticisms of Jarmusch's work is that the pace is slow. I would like to make a case for patience. After all, if true beauty and grace were delivered in one massive hit, our poor brains and hearts would not withstand the blow. In Down By Law, Jarmusch invites us to take some time, some real time and devote it to getting deeply involved with his characters. Men in crisis. Misfits, jailbirds, heartbreakingly human. We accompany them on their journey, their escape from their confines. It is a truly epic journey on a small geographical scale. We watch as they begin to mirror one another, as their individual egos become inextricably enmeshed in one another. We watch a friendship form. And how can we begrudge the time Jarmusch takes for this glorious exposition? How can we do anything but marvel at the fine detail in which the scenes are drawn, at the subtle movements of our heroes? Every gesture signifies worlds of meaning and consequence. And Jarmusch does it better, with more skill and with more compassion than anyone. If you are prepared to get involved, if you are brave enough to commit to the journey, you will be rewarded with a kind of epiphany that few films can offer.
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atmospheric without much tension
SnoopyStyle7 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
In New Orleans, Radio DJ Zack (Tom Waits) is berated by his girlfriend Laurette (Ellen Barkin) for losing his job. He gets $1000 to drive a car across town but the cops stop him and find a dead body in the trunk. Jack (John Lurie) is a pimp who is offered a new young white girl. Before he notices that she's underage, cops bust in and arrest him. They end up in the same cell and Roberto (Roberto Benigni) who speaks little English is brought in. He writes down phrases that strike him. He tells them that he's a card cheat who killed a man with the pool 8-ball. Then he leads them on a breakout.

The camera lingers in slow moving long continuous scenes. The sparse settings give a surreal feel to it all. Everything has a dreamlike quality. It has an interesting atmosphere but it doesn't have much tension which is Jim Jarmusch's style.
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Another great movie by Jim Jarmusch
tim_age28 May 2002
I've seen a couple of Jarmusch movies and except for Dead Man (which I thought was an incredible bore), they were all great.

Down By Law is probably one his best known flicks and is a very good low budget movie. It features Tom Waits, who's not only a fine musician but proves to be a decent actor as well; John Lurie, who also wrote the excellent soundtrack (Waits delivered the opening and end-credits track btw); Roberto Benigni, who nowadays is most famous for directing the Oscar-winning Italian film "La Vita E Bella".

The movie deals about three guys who meet in prison and escape. It reminded me of "O Brother Where Are Thou?" and, perhaps because of it being filmed in black and white, of old 40's movies about escaping prisoners (can't think of a good example, but you get the picture).

Three things I liked very much about this movie:

1. It's incredibly funny, especially Benigni made me laugh every time he opened his mouth - He irritated me highly in "La Vita E Bella" so that must mean something....

2. The frame of the camera is very well used. Look at the scene where Lurie counts the money and a hooker is laying behind him on the bed and the scene after that. Another example is when Benigni is dancing with a lady and the other two guys are continuing their breakfast in the back.

3. It's very hard to pinpoint when the story takes place; it's timeless in more than one way, obviously helped by the lack of color.

All in all, this one comes highly recommended.
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Fascinating filmmaking far away from Hollywood
andibert27 January 2004
Wow, what a movie. Far away from Hollywood, Jim Jarmusch creates a world where you don't need drama, pathos and action to fascinate the watcher. Because fascinating is exactly what this movie is. A plot in the classical sense is almost completely missing; the scenes, in their simplicity sometimes reminding of theater, follow each other without ever creating real suspense; neither griping action nor complex dialogues are there to excite the spectator. And still, with ease Jarmusch fills more than a hundred minutes with a story you won't take your eyes off. It is hard to tell what the atmosphere of the movie is really based on, the characters, the setting, entirely in black and white, the music - probably all of it. Again, like in Jarmusch's later movie "Dead man", speed is an important factor: everything moves slowly, without haste, as there is no dramatic climax you could hurry towards; yet, boring is a word that certainly doesn't fit this piece of cineastic art. On the other hand, though some of the scenes seem quite surrealistic, it is not a really artistic movie breaking with all the traditional concepts of filmmaking; it is more a movie in classic shape with an unconventional story, not trying to shock, to confuse or even to make you think so much; this movie doesn't need all this to get your complete attention. You could probably speculate a lot about the meaning of the movie; to me, this seems highly unnecessary. Just let it unfold its atmosphere. Judge yourselves, but I was excited in a very special way by every scene of this motion picture, giving me one of my best cineastic experiences of the recent time.
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Noire Fairy Tale: Surprised by Delight
jk-9618 March 2005
This movie was a total surprise to me. I'm sure it's very famous, but somehow had never seen it before. From the beginning scenes, I was expecting a gritty low life, wind up in the gutter, down and out kind of crime movie and that was fine with me, especially if set in New Orleans. At the same time there was a surprising freshness about it, that caught my attention, like a wake up call. Literally, there was writing on the wall that signaled "this is not that kind of movie!" The opening scenes reminded me of the opening of Sopranos -- the rolling shot of a neighborhood with an ominous sounding song in the background. (Were the Sopranos producers inspired by this film?) But once Roberto Benigni appeared on the scene, announcing that "Life is Sad and Beautiful" the whole story began to feel more like a strange fairy tale. Throughout the film, I appreciated the way the director took his time, letting the story evolve slowly, giving the characters time to develop their tenuous bonds. I could watch this again and again, knowing I would keep discovering hidden meanings, references, and ironies. Loved it!!!!
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"Yeah, it's a sad and beautiful world, pal."
classicsoncall3 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Action/adventure fans won't have the patience for this film. There are long, extended scenes in which the principal characters wait each other out before speaking, and even then, they don't have much to say. The introduction of Roberto Benigni's character into the jail cell at the Orleans Parish Prison changes the dynamic of the story, but at first you don't know which way it will go. Zack (Tom Waits) and Jack (John Lurie) could just as easily have beat the hell out of Roberto in any other film, but here, they take to the idiosyncratic jailbird when they learn he's in for murder by eight-ball. Consistently referring to his pocket note pad for illuminating American phrases, Roberto is at his charming nuttiest leading his cellmate hoods in a rousing rendition of 'We all scream for ice cream'.

I'm not big on stories that go nowhere but this one went nowhere in a decidedly unique and captivating way. The jail break by the unlikely trio is as improbable as the camaraderie that develops among them, which quite honestly is probably the reason the mechanics of it wasn't actually shown. You have to take it on faith that Roberto actually did find some weakness in the security of the prison yard in order for them to escape. Even more improbable is the romance that develops between Roberto and his new found love Nicoletta (Nicoletta Braschi), but then again, who can say? I was waiting any minute for Zack or Jack to take advantage of the young lady, but apparently their regard for Roberto was one of earned respect.

I can't say this would be on my recommended list for most viewers, but if you can slow down and savor the plight of three disparate jailbirds looking for a break, this may appeal to your better instincts. And if I can relate the picture to another Benigni film for which he won a Best Actor Oscar, the story in it's own distinctive manner has a way of showing it's characters that "Life is Beautiful".
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Excellent - quirkily funny and engaging
grantss28 April 2018
Three men escape from jail and head out into the Louisiana bayous. What follows is their journey and their attempts to evade the law.

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, so you already know this is not going to be a conventional movie. Quirkily funny, with some great off-the-wall characters and good interplay between them. Plot is a bit random, though that's part of the movie's charm. The anarchy of the plot fits in well with the characters and general non-seriousness of the movie.

Good work by Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni in the lead roles.
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Brilliant in every way
bejasus29 July 2005
I first saw Down By Law when it first came out, and loved it. I watched it again recently, and it really hasn't aged at all. In fact, it has gotten even better. I'm not sure there's another movie like it (unless the other Jarmusch ones are -- I haven't seen them). There are very few movies that spend so much time on character development that still have great plots. Like the "Big Easy" where it is filmed, this one takes its time but has an easy charm once the plot gets where it was going. The dialogue is wonderfully written, and better acted. Each scene is like a work of art in how it is staged. The soundtrack uses one of the best albums ever recorded, "Rain Dogs" by Tom Waits, who stars. One of my all time favorites.
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Really contemplative
Red_Identity2 May 2015
This may very well be a mans' journey film, actually literally, but philosophically, it's still one that serves to be a reminder of all of the things in life and about how our choices eventually need to come to a head. The three lead actors are very naturalistic, except Benigni who seems to overdo it at times. The writing and the directing are typical Jarmusch, and we are able to experience just what he is feeling in every frame. So typical that audiences themselves will be wondering what is going on, and seeing as how it's plot less besides the obvious already in the summary, only Jarmusch fans who know what they're getting into will not be surprised by its narrative. If anything, it's one of his plottier films.
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spoliers........ trust
shaunfogarty4 March 2004
Jim Jarmusch trusts his camera, his directing, his writing, and most of all his performers. This is a gem of a film, without pretense. The story and film just move, sluggishly chugging forward to an ending that is really more of a dissolve. The story is ultimately of little importance, just enough movement to show us a bit of the big jokester in the skies irony. I was struck by the similarity's to Dead Man, similarities quite aside the black and white photography. The enigmatic character at the center, the drifting in and out of the main characters, the use of the boat, the disposal of the usual plot devices, the cutting away of obvious scenes (like the "how' of the escape) I wish more films displayed this sort of ease with themselves. Great stuff, 8/10.
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Excellent early Jarmusch
The_Void17 April 2005
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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Brilliant and awesome!
PeterRoeder19 December 2003
This is one of the best movies ever made. I cannot begin to emphasize how much heart is in it. It is really a story that transcends even realism and belongs to the realm of literature, music and art. One cannot claim to know anything about movies without having seen this one. It´s like Chaplin reading the classics of American literature. Nietzsche breathing the fresh desert air. Milton creeping into the left foot of Blake. Watch it! Watch it! Watch it!
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A bit slow at times, but generally good
FilmOtaku4 April 2005
One thing that I have always liked about Jim Jarmusch is that a lot of times he seems to use people whom you've either never heard of, or wouldn't expect to see acting in a film. His 1986 film "Down by Law" is no exception. The film tells the story of three men, Zack (Waits), Jack (Lurie) and Roberto (Benigni) who meet when they are put in the same jail cell at a New Orleans prison. All three men are different in terms of background; Zack is a serially employed radio DJ who is kicked out of the house by his girlfriend, only to run into a shady acquaintance that offers him $1,000 to drive a hot Jaguar to an undisclosed location in the city. Along the way he is stopped by the police and unfortunately, a body is found in the trunk of the Jag, which spells bad news for Zack and a quick trip to prison. Jack is a pimp who is set up by an associate of his; when he goes to meet a prospective "worker" in a hotel room, the police bust in, the lights go on and it turns out the woman is actually a young girl. Roberto's background is a little shadier, though murder factors into it. Roberto's command of the English language is comical and his naiveté and good mood are infectious, but the other two come to near blows either with each other or Roberto on more than one occasion, particularly after they manage to escape from prison, when they are forced to rely on one another to survive the swamps of Louisiana so they can escape prison, and one another, for good.

"Down by Law" is shot in wonderful black and white, which gives the film both a starkness and bare-bones feel. The music is also fantastic, with the instrumentals being performed by John Lurie and the songs by Tom Waits. Thirteen years before winning Best Actor for "Life is Beautiful", Beningi gives a great performance in this film; his charm and humor were incredibly apparent in this, his first American film. Tom Waits, a personal favorite of mine, most musically but also for his various movie roles, is a natural actor and did a great job in this film. John Lurie, whom I don't remember from other Jarmusch films I've seen, but apparently was in them gave a decent performance, though at times it was fairly wooden. I suspect that there was a good amount of improvisation throughout "Down by Law", but that didn't help some of its pacing problems. Though the photography of the film was wonderful, it couldn't help divert from the fact that there were times when the film really dragged for me, like Jarmusch had left the camera on and the principals were just kind of doing their thing, though not in a compelling manner.

Overall, however, I did enjoy "Down by Law" and it is a must-see for any Jarmusch fan. I would also recommend it for those who enjoyed Beningi's more recent performances, because he really seemed to have a lot of fun with this film, as did I, for the most part. 6/10 --Shelly
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Simple But Memorable
loganx-212 June 2008
Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Begnini share a Louisianna prison cell together, and a prison escape film, with all of the actual escape parts cut out. Funny, wonderful performances, stunning black and white cinematography, great music, a human story, an oddly heart warming ending about people coming together and moving apart. There's subtle poetics at work here, with all of Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, references, but somehow it all falls together naturally. Still though I appreciated it more than I actually enjoyed it, but with time I can see myself coming back in the future. Great dry comedy, and beautiful everyday images.
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A Superb Piece 9/10
evansthelegend28 November 2004
If i had to describe any aspect of this flick i'd say it was "crafted". Utterly sublime direction from Jarmusch, with a sense of desolation in the landscape that is captured so well, it's almost surreal. Waits is, simply put, a genius, and puts in a performance which would silence any who feel that "you can't be both an actor and a musician". Benigni and Lurie are both a delirius joy and deliciously despicable respectively. The use of Waits' music within the film only heightens the sense of dusty Americana, and hip oddball style. It reminds me that indie-film snobs have actually got something right for a change, and its cult classic status is rightly deserved. Exquisitely shot, with an excellent soundtrack and sterling performances. Highly recommended, especially for fans of Waits and Benigny. Also, it's the only film that makes me want ice cream....
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If you can only take ONE movie to an island...
satellithias12 August 2006
...then "Down By Law" should be among those to consider.

Great cinematography, a superb soundtrack by John Lurie & Tom Waits, and brilliant performances by the three lead actors as well as Ellen Barkin and Nicoletta Braschi (Benigni's wife).

In my hometown Berlin, this movie is one of the evergreens during the popular open air cinema season and it very well deserves it.

I screama, You screama, We all screama for .. DOWN BY LAW!

There are two scenes I find particularly noteworthy. One is the opening sequence which is a long take passing through a small town, the other is the three escapees journey in a boat through a seemingly endless swamp. See for yourself. No explanations required.
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All the elements that make a Jarmusch film come together to create a beautiful story
pere-2536614 May 2019
I've been binging Jarmusch's filmography this week for the first-time knowing little about his films and style of storytelling. In my opinion, this is his greatest achievement. The cinematography is beautiful; all of the river-boating scenes looked incredible. The performances are all great, especially Benigni's who had me in tears from laughter. The pacing is also solid; how these three very different men form a bond is a marvel to experience. On the whole, the story is a unique take on the 'prison film' and operates in that perfect balance of quirky and realistic. If you're like me and you're ripping through Jarmusch films for the first time, I'd say this is a pretty great introduction to the man and his mind.
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Early Jarmusch: awkward but heartwarming camaraderie in the America of vacant, overgrown lots and other such blight
crculver12 September 2015
Jim Jarmusch's DOWN BY LAW is one of the art-house productions that the American independent director made his name with in the 1980s.

At this point in his career, Jarmusch wanted to depict not the glitzy, glamorous America of Hollywood films, but rather the side no one ever talks about: vacant lots overgrown with weeds, the ramshackle homes of the working poor, and empty suburban streets. As the film opens, Jarmusch sets the stage by depicting New Orleans from this angle in a series of shots made from a moving car. Only then we see how a small-town pimp (John Lurie) and an itinerant DJ (Tom Waits) get themselves arrested after they've each accepted a job from a seedy friend. They subsequently end up sharing a jail cell, into which one day an Italian immigrant (Roberto Benigni) is also placed. The plot of the film is the developing camaraderie between these three men. The Italian's bumbling antics act initially aggravate his cellmates -- Benigni's role serve as comic relief against the morose behavior of the other two characters. DOWN BY LAW begins as a drama portraying the underbelly of a Louisiana town, but by the end it has transformed into absurdist comedy.

Lurie's acting is fine, representing his character convincingly as a pathetic d-bag. Benigni might seem like he's playing himself, but his English is reputedly much better than the broken phrases he offers in the film. Nicoletta Braschi appears as the Italian's love interest, a role that must have been easy to play since Benigni and her are married in real life. I've never thought Tom Waits was a great actor, however.

In terms of cinematography, this is a major step forward for Jarmusch. Bringing on cameraman Robby Müller, most famous for his work with Wim Wenders in the 1970s, Jarmusch shot many scenes with blatant diagonals and claustrophobic framing that suggests the prison in which these characters do time. It's certainly the most geometrically striking film of Jarmusch's career.

This is an entertaining film, with many fine touches. If I give it less than a rave, it's just because I can't completely get into these black and white portrayals of contemporary lowlifes (I have a problem with early Kaurismäki for the same reason--his aesthetic was very similar to Jarmusch's.) But I think this film has held up pretty well three decades after its release, and I'd recommend it for anyone looking to explore Jarmusch's work.
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Jarmusch's character experiment around lawlessness, fortune and companionship
Movie_Muse_Reviews13 June 2017
A prison film without an overt sense of morality? That comes as no surprise from Jim Jarmusch. One of the pioneers of independent filmmaking in the 1980s, Jarmusch cares little for plot or crafting a message for his audience and much more about drawing up scenarios for his characters that reveal nuances of the human condition.

"Down by Law" features three men in New Orleans who are guilty of their crimes though wrongfully imprisoned. Zack (Tom Waits) is a radio DJ who — after being thrown out by his girlfriend — agrees to a shady odd job driving a car that sets him up to take a fall. Jack (John Lurie) is a local pimp who ends up the victim of a sting operation. Both men feel unfairly hit just for letting their guard down. In prison they meet Bob (Roberto Benigni), an optimistic and overly friendly Italian immigrant with a similar story. The three men connect within confinement, but that bond is tested in new ways after they escape.

Aside from Zack and Jack's arrests, Jarmusch takes his laid back approach to most of the events in the film, choosing to show only the aftereffects of the major plot points that most filmmakers would want to depict on screen. He did the same thing in "Stranger Than Paradise" a couple years earlier, wanting to focus his film on how the characters respond to swings of fortune. The prison break, for example, is not explained. We only see the before followed by a cut to the three prisoners on the run.

Zack, Jack and Bob make for an interesting trio, particularly Bob. Benigni brings impeccable spirit and joviality to break up the somewhat slogging animosity between carefree cool guy Zack (Waits is spot-on casting) and the self-righteous, sarcastic Jack (deployed similarly to the way he was in "Stranger Than Paradise"). Benigni is specifically responsible for a couple of the film's best moments, one an ice cream protest and the other involving a rabbit. His comedy brings a dimension and energy to this film that "Paradise" was missing, and it fits within Jarmusch's style and framework.

"Down by Law" also feels more cinematic. Jarmusch includes more of the New Orleans setting and the Louisiana wilderness with dollying/trucking shots that help immerse his very intimate stories in something larger, in this case the lawlessness of NOLA and the swampland. Maybe Jarmusch doesn't have a neatly wrapped up moral to send us home with, his film clearly establishes a belief in an unpredictability to our world. And given the way his characters handle it, you can tell that he views humans as people who are eternally torn between self-interest and companionship.

Jarmusch's early work shows great vision of how he wants to tell stories, with less emphasis on what those stories are trying to say. It's as though he's running experiments with his characters, and what plays out in his films are the results. Fans of art films and theatre will surely appreciate these early offerings, while those who prefer a director take them on a ride rather than present them an experiment to observe will have trouble connecting.

~Steven C

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Down by law: An ideal film for you if you want to discover Jim Jarmusch.
FilmCriticLalitRao13 August 2014
It is true that "Down by law" is a film which has been made for his actor as well as musician friends, director Jim Jarmusch has been able to capture a certain type of melancholic mood. It is a mood which affects many capricious men.This film has been built around such American men who do not seem to realize the importance of American culture.It is for this reason that they do not have much to say when an Italian man with little knowledge of English speaks to them enthusiastically about his appreciation of icons of American literature Robert Frost and Walt Whitman.The excessive use of vulgar language especially the incessant use of "F" word might be difficult for some viewers to digest.However,Jarmusch has ensured that for his film a conventional story does not matter as despite the lack of a clearly defined narrative structure,strengths and weaknesses of all characters have been nicely revealed.This film boasts of a good soundtrack with some mellifluous tunes which can be hummed anywhere,anytime.Lastly,'Down by law' is a good film to watch even when the viewers get to know that the real action of the film starts after 1 hour.
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Cult-Indie for the Fans, Boring Film for the Others
claudio_carvalho29 January 2010
In Louisianan, the girlfriend Laurette (Ellen Barkin) of the WYLD DJ Zack (Tom Waits) a.k.a. Lee Baby Simms has an argument and breaks with him. The upset Zack drinks booze on the street and his acquaintance Preston (Vernel Bagneris) offers US$ 1,500.00 to him to drive a Jaguar to the other side of the city. However, there is a man locked up in the trunk of the car and Zack is arrested and sent to the Orleans Parish Prison. Meanwhile the pimp Jack (John Lurie) is framed by his acquaintance Gig (Rockets Redglare) and is arrested in the same cell of Zack. When the Italian Roberto (Roberto Benigni) a.k.a. Bob that does note speak English very well is locked up in the same cell, the trio develops a strange friendship. Sooner Bob proposes a means of escape from prison and the trio shares a journey through the swamps of Mississippi.

"Down by Law" is a cult-indie for the fans and a boring film for the others. The cinematography in black and white is stylish, but why? The plot is quite original but uninteresting. Further I do not like the actor Roberto Benigni that used the idea of the screenplay of "Train de Vie" of Radu Mihaileanu that was offered to him to the lead role to write his awarded "La Vita è Bella". Therefore, I do not laugh of his gags and jokes. Maybe if I had seen this movie in 1986, I might have enjoyed more. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Down by Law"
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the son of the pink panther
the_crock3 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This isn't your normal prison movie, nor by any stretch your normal American comedy. Make no mistake if your favourite movies are Hollywood by numbers, you will be confused and bored by this great piece of cinema. Tom waits stars as Zack, a DJ who ends up in jail for murder after being set up. John Lurie is Jack, a pimp who also gets set up. They bond uncomfortably in a Louisiana jail, before Italian comedic genius Roberto Benigni comes in and changes there world. Waits and Lurie are brilliant, they both completely become low level hoods, but its Benigni as usual who is the colour of this Black and White film. He is the heart and soul that these two losers never knew they had. They eventually escape and are then lost in the bayou for too long. The movie is less about what they do, and more about the journey that these two hoods have following this effervescent Italian. This is so different to the normal Hollywood comedy, that I can understand most people will not like it, but the gruff demeanour of Waits and Lurie are in beautiful contrast to the stunning black and white cinematography and the great Robert Benigni. Jim Jarmusch takes his time, and as usual delivers something worth waiting for.
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self-consciously cool
mjneu5914 November 2010
Jim Jarmusch's 'neo-beat-noir' follow-up to his quirky debut feature 'Strangers In Paradise' was the in-film for the in-crowd when first released: a hip-to-distraction ersatz comedy in which the only joke is that there is no joke. With his deadpan disdain for the Hollywood mainstream Jarmusch might be accused of being a cinematic rebel simply for the sake of rebellion, offering as his only alternative a numb new form of motion picture in which most of the motion as been deliberately discarded. The result is either an exhilarating departure from convention or a supreme test of patience, filmed in handsome high-contrast black and white and bolstered by a trio of likable if not exactly memorable characters: Jack, Zack and Bob the Italian, three misfits who meet in jail and subsequently escape into the Louisiana bayous. That's about it. Recommended for aficionados of tongue-in-cheek obscurantism.
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