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Down by Law (1986)

7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 28,408 users  
Reviews: 82 user | 59 critic

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

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Title: Down by Law (1986)

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4 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Jack
...
...
Nicoletta
...
Billie Neal ...
Bobbie
Rockets Redglare ...
Gig
Vernel Bagneris ...
Preston
Timothea ...
Julie
L.C. Drane ...
L.C.
Joy N. Houck Jr. ...
Detective Mandino (as Joy Houck Jr.)
Carrie Lindsoe ...
Young Girl
Ralph Joseph ...
Detective
Richard Boes ...
Detective
Dave Petitjean ...
Cajun Detective
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Storyline

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 <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Comedy | Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

|

Release Date:

30 October 1986 (West Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Down by Law  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$1,100,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$1,436,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Roberto Benigni's line "It's a sad and beautiful world" was the result of a misunderstanding. The script read "That's sad and beautiful music", but Benigni said "It's a sad and beautiful word", but Waits and Jarmusch misheard it and though he said "WORLD", and so, the line stuck. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

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

Connections

Referenced in Night on Earth (1991) See more »

Soundtracks

Tango Till They're Sore
Written and Performed by Tom Waits
from his 'Rain Dogs' album
Courtesy Island Records, Inc.
(end title)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Excellent early Jarmusch
17 April 2005 | by (Beverley Hills, England) – See all my reviews

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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