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Down by Law (1986)

R  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Drama  |  30 October 1986 (West Germany)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 33,757 users  
Reviews: 87 user | 66 critic

The story of three different men in a Louisiana prison and their eventual journey.



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5 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Billie Neal ...
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Cajun Detective


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 -but rather more useful to them is the fact that Roberto knows an escape route Written by Michael Brooke <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


It's not where you start - It's where you start again.


Comedy | Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

30 October 1986 (West Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Bajo el peso de la ley  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,100,000 (estimated)


$1,436,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Jim Jarmusch had intended that the shack that the fugitives find refuge in after escaping prison would have bunk beds, so as to make it look exactly like the prison cell. Incredibly, they found a shack where two bunk beds were already standing, so no extra furniture had to be added. 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 »


[first lines]
Jack: Julie, what're you doing out here?
Julie: Just watching the light change.
See more »


Referenced in Brows Held High: Pinocchio (2011) See more »


Jockey Full of Bourbon
Written and Performed by Tom Waits
from his 'Rain Dogs' album
Courtesy Island Records, Inc.
(opening title)
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User Reviews

Intricate filmmaking, a masterpiece
15 August 2002 | by (minneapolis) – See all my reviews

Down by Law is a film that has mesmerized me for years. The first time I saw it, it sunk into me like the smile from a homeless person. It told me something I should've already known.

I've heard people use the word "quirky", when drawing comparisons to a Jarmusch character, but, I like the phrase: "Spot On". He has captured man's fear within himself, and, the ability to hide that fear. It takes a director of great courage and knowledge of self to pull that one off without boring you.

If you're a fan of Joel Schumaucher or James Cameron, this is not the film for you. But if your a fan of people, and, the human condition, the mirror reflects back, 2 hours at a time, and Jarmusch is right behind it.

40 of 73 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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