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.
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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 <email@example.com>
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.
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Male bonding, bumbling and natural behavior among three men on the fringe
During the setup, I wasn't sure what this was about. We see Tom Waits and John Lurie each get set up, framed, and sent to jail. Each has a girl friend who is inessential to the story and disappears after these introductions, but they comment on these men and their lives.
The men and their women are living in rundown areas and on the fringe. The movie does a great job photographically of immersing us in these poor areas and giving them a beauty all their own. And it is also as if to say that all the people we are seeing are human beings too and part of the world's stage, as well as all fools too as mortals be.
Waits is a disc jockey who loses one job after another because he's independent. Lurie is a pimp.
In jail they are joined by an Italian still learning the language, played very comically by Roberto Benigni. In fact, it is at that point that the comic element comes to the fore, as we see how these three men living in one cell interact with one another. And that becomes largely what this part of the movie is about. It's fairly unpredictable and amusing. Some of it may have been improvised. Although there are frictions, the men bond with one another, but not too much. Their circumstances influence how they behave toward one another.
Although Benigni is slighter of build than his cell mates, can't speak English well, and seems a clown, his character continually brings us some surprises as the story develops. This adds to the fun.
The three men escape jail, and the rest of the story follows them through the chase, the swamps of Lousiana and what refuges they can find. The comic element fades away to a large extent and the movie's tone becomes simply wry and ironic. An interesting moral situation occurs when, during the pursuit, Benigni cannot swim and the others must decide whether or not to save their own skins or risk losing them by helping Benigni.
They are in an existential plight. The whole movie has this existential tone to it. The men do not philosophize. They don't ruminate much about the situations they find themselves in. They don't cooperate all that much. They don't for the most part exhibit much skill in the wilderness, yet they manage to make their way. Their leadership seems always to shift. It's an anarchic set of relations.
They create their own humor and laughter, their own kind of poetry, even their own jail window. We see that men need art, poetry, laughter, friendship. They also need women, and this too is shown. They need on occasion to fight. These men living on the fringe that most of us will never meet show us some basic things about human life. This is a large virtue of this movie. The men behave naturally. With all of society's conventions, we need to be reminded that men have natures and behave naturally.
This is a very good movie.
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