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.
As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers.
This shortcut repeats the structure of Coffee and Cigarettes. This time, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits meet in a bar. But, again, we don't know why they agreed to do that in the first place, ... See full summary »
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>
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 »
When Roberto is drawing a window on the wall, an indistinct impression of the same drawing of a window can already be seen, presumably drawn during an earlier take and later erased. See more »
Julie, what're you doing out here?
Just watching the light change.
See more »
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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