Down by Law

Down by Law

DVD - 2002
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A comedy feature about two lowlifes, a small time pimp and an unemployed disc jockey, framed for crimes they didn't commit, who escape from jail with an eccentric Italian tourist. Set in New Orleans and the swamps of Louisiana.

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lukasevansherman
May 14, 2015

Yeah, it may not look like much, but this was one the key films of the indie film movement of the 80s and its DIY aesthetic, deadpan cool, and lazy narrative style would influence a whole generation of filmmakers. Also check out "Stranger Than Paradise."

n
nparrish
Jan 09, 2015

I love Tom Waits' music, so I had to check this out. It's interesting, but kind of feels like a rough draft or homemade film.
I like B/W filming, but the story & characters never seem natural here. Waits does some good DJ bits & the Italian guy is an ok character, but none of it really ever goes anywhere.
Ellen Barkin's scene is just silly, they could have written a great part for her, but you know, most of these guys have a hard time writing women, so all the females are junkie whores.
Even the Italian woman, she just marries a guy on the spot cause he's Italian...She may as well have been a Prop.
The movie is about a jailbreak but just totally skips the actual break...Sloppy writing, beautiful scenery, great music, unrealistic & tries too hard to seem real.

n
Nursebob
Dec 12, 2014

Two men from the wrong side of the tracks find themselves unwilling cellmates when they’re targeted by crooked police stings. Previously abandoned by their respective muses, unemployed D.J. Zack (a gravelly Tom Waits) and ambitious pimp Jack while away the hours getting on each other’s nerves until they’re joined by a third prisoner, Italian ex-pat Roberto (a brilliantly animated Roberto Benigni) arrested for accidentally killing a man with a billiard ball. Alternately amused and annoyed by Roberto’s broken English and childlike zeal for all things American, the two men gain a grudging respect for the little foreigner when he manages to concoct a successful escape plan. Finding themselves lost in the Louisiana wilderness the three mismatched prison mates embark on an oddball quest for freedom containing elements of Greek mythology (in one hilarious passage the ragtag Argonauts watch dispiritedly as their ship sinks into the bayou mud), a swamp rat version of Dante with Benigni’s half-assed Virgil providing all the laughs, and a true blue tribute to Frost as two roads diverge in a yellow wood. Stylishly framed in stark shades of black and white, Jim Jarmusch’s noir comedy has a gritty experimental feel to it heightened by a largely improvised script and just the right amount of absurdist humour. A character driven odyssey graced by spot-on performances and tight camera shots which balance the low-rent squalor of New Orleans with murky panoramas of steaming bogs. One of the more important films to come out of the 80’s.

LittleLady2011 May 03, 2012

My son and I are debating the star rating on this one, but overall it was good.

The film started out with lots of suspense and great shots of New Orleans!

The plot lines were shaky and could have been stronger. It seemed like a film that wanted to get three really good actors together then it just fizzled out and did not utilize these talented actors. In some scenes the actors just seemed bored.

I guess my main point is that the plot lacked a backbone. Without that it was just a story!

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mariednguyen
Sep 27, 2013

Down by Law is a 1986 black-and-white independent film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. It stars Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni.

The film centers on the arrest, incarceration, and escape from jail of three men. It discards jailbreak film conventions by focusing on the interaction between the convicts rather than on the mechanics of the escape. A key element in the film is Robby Müller's slow-moving camerawork, which captures the architecture of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou to which the cellmates escape.

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