7.8/10
42,291
100 user 75 critic

Down by Law (1986)

Trailer
1:37 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $3.99 (HD) on Prime Video

ON DISC
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.

Director:

Jim Jarmusch

Writer:

Jim Jarmusch
4 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A New Yorker's life is thrown into a tailspin when his younger cousin surprise visits him, starting a strange, unpredictable adventure.

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: John Lurie, Eszter Balint, Richard Edson
Mystery Train (1989)
Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Three stories are connected by a Memphis hotel and the spirit of Elvis Presley.

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Masatoshi Nagase, Yûki Kudô, Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

An anthology of 5 different cab drivers in 5 American and European cities and their remarkable fares on the same eventful night.

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Winona Ryder, Gena Rowlands, Lisanne Falk
Comedy | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A series of vignettes that all have coffee and cigarettes in common.

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Bill Murray, Tom Waits, Roberto Benigni
Dead Man (1995)
Drama | Fantasy | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

On the run after murdering a man, accountant William Blake encounters a strange North American man named Nobody who prepares him for his journey into the spiritual world.

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A young man wanders New York City searching for some meaning in life and encounters many idiosyncratic characters.

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Chris Parker, Leila Gastil, John Lurie
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

An African-American Mafia hit man who models himself after the samurai of old finds himself targeted for death by the mob.

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Forest Whitaker, Henry Silva, John Tormey
Comedy | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him.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.

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Bill Murray, Jessica Lange, Sharon Stone
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

The story of a mysterious loner, a stranger in the process of completing a criminal job.

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Isaach De Bankolé, Alex Descas, Jean-François Stévenin
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A depressed musician reunites with his lover. Though their romance, which has already endured several centuries, is disrupted by the arrival of her uncontrollable younger sister.

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska
Short | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

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 »

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Iggy Pop, Tom Waits
Paterson (2016)
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A quiet observation of the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Nellie
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tom Waits ... Zack
John Lurie ... Jack
Roberto Benigni ... Roberto
Nicoletta Braschi ... Nicoletta
Ellen Barkin ... Laurette
Billie Neal Billie Neal ... Bobbie
Rockets Redglare Rockets Redglare ... Gig
Vernel Bagneris ... Preston
Timothea Timothea ... Julie
L.C. Drane L.C. Drane ... L.C.
Joy N. Houck Jr. Joy N. Houck Jr. ... Detective Mandino (as Joy Houck Jr.)
Carrie Lindsoe Carrie Lindsoe ... Young Girl
Ralph Joseph Ralph Joseph ... Detective
Richard Boes Richard Boes ... Detective
Dave Petitjean Dave Petitjean ... Cajun Detective
Edit

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. 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:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA | West Germany

Language:

English | Italian

Release Date:

30 October 1986 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Bajo el peso de la ley See more »

Filming Locations:

Louisiana, USA See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$1,100,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$49,840, 28 September 1986, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$1,436,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

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

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 »

Quotes

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

Connections

Referenced in Unikal'noe pozdravlenie (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

It's Raining
Written by Allen Toussaint
Performed by Irma Thomas
Used by permission of CBS Unart catalog, Inc. and Jefferson Jazz, Inc.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
A bit slow at times, but generally good
4 April 2005 | by FilmOtakuSee all my reviews

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


32 of 63 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 100 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page



Recently Viewed