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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buzz of to you to, thank you!
Far from being only a story about three guys in prison, this is amazing movie. Zack and Jack and Roberto (Waits, Lourie and Benigni)are in the prison for being in wrong place at wrong time, and maybe a bit because of doing wrong things. The story of escape is developed through the rich play of characters (no Speed-like actions... graciously, just people in time). My...
Published on 10 Nov 2003 by Jasminka Muzinic Sabol

versus
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars you can get this and two other films for less in the collection
I'll not disagree with any of the nice things that people have said about this film, it is really wonderful, but at time of writing you can actually get Down by Law along with two other films, Permanent Vacation and Stranger than Paradise for less in the Jim Jarmusch Collection Vol.1 [DVD] [1980].

I would humbly suggest you go for that and save your money to...
Published on 29 Jan 2011 by tallmanbaby


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buzz of to you to, thank you!, 10 Nov 2003
This review is from: Down By Law [1986] [DVD] (DVD)
Far from being only a story about three guys in prison, this is amazing movie. Zack and Jack and Roberto (Waits, Lourie and Benigni)are in the prison for being in wrong place at wrong time, and maybe a bit because of doing wrong things. The story of escape is developed through the rich play of characters (no Speed-like actions... graciously, just people in time). My personal highlights: All of Tom Waits. Looking at the window drawn on the prison cell wall. I-screaming. Roberto's story of his dreams of his mother catching a rabbit. Terribly funny and inspiring.
Of course, when you dig Jarmusch, Waits, Lourie, Benigni.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Jarmusch manual, 7 May 2005
By 
randolfff (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Down By Law [1986] [DVD] (DVD)
Jarmusch is often consigned to the critically lazy category "acquired taste". His films are usually slow-paced, seemingly directionless, often focusing on dead-beats, outsiders, foreigners and other socially marginalized figures. As he's said himself, if he see's a character taking a phonecall and arranging a meeting, a cut, then the meeting itself, he wonders what the character might have done in the interim to amuse himself. Was he bored? Nervous? Did he watch some tv? Sing along in scat to a crackly jazz record on the radio?
If these kind of questions interest you, most likely Jarmusch will. 'Down By Law' is a visual treat, a fact quickly prefaced by its opening shots of New Orleans, seemlessly concluded with the final, symmetrical frame of the protagonists going their separate ways. If the performances are very natural but also very idiosyncratic, that might be because John Lurie and Tom Waits are principally musicians, not actors. And because Roberto Benigni genuinely knew very little English when the film was made.
The music, and the story, are enchanting, surprising and resistant to full narrative closure or an obvious moral. Benigni was not then the worldwide star he is today, and he has to fight on screen for air-time. It's worth the wait when the master comic raconteur gets going.
So here are some tips:
(1) if you like Benigni in this, check out a later Jarmusch film 'Night on Earth'. He gets a full half-hour solo as a chattering taxi driver. More adult than 'La Vita e Bella'. Funnier too.
(2) if you like John Lurie and Tom Waits, listen to their music. Between them they've scored a subtantial amount of Jarmusch's oeuvre. Lurie also stars in 'Stranger Than Paradise', an earlier Jarmusch film.
(3) if you like the style and pace of Jarmusch, dig a little deeper and watch some of the filmmakers who influenced him. John Cassavetes and Yasujiro Ozu I'd particularly recommend.
(4) if you wonder "who is Jim Jarmusch?", watch Wayne Wang and Paul Auster's 'Blue in the Face'. You'll get a good 5-10 minute cameo riff from the man himself on the merits of smoking.
But 'Down By Law' is a great place to start. It's a top dollar showing from Jarmusch's penniless down-and-outs.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moody, atmospheric, brilliant..., 2 Feb 2006
This review is from: Down By Law [1986] [DVD] (DVD)
This is one of the best films I have ever seen. The photography is stunning throughout, atmospherically filmed in b&w, capturing both the seedy side of New Orleans in the 1980s and the beauty of the Louisiana bayous. It is essentially a black comedy about the interplay between the three central characters (Tom Waits is Zack, the unemployed DJ, John Lurie is Jack the small time pimp and Roberto Benigni is Bob, the wacky Italian tourist) who for dubious reasons all find themselves thrown together in a New Orleans jail. The film is beautifully understated - there are many periods when nothing much is happening, but it's magnificently enacted, adding comic tension, creating extra dynamic between the characters. The director, Jim Jarmusch said about the film: "I would call the style of the film 'neo-beat-noir-comedy', with a story line that openly accepts conventions and an atmosphere that is part nightmare and part fairy tale" That about sums it up. If I had to single out just one favourite passage it would probably be Bob's "rabbit" monologue - watch out for it - it's simply genius. A totally fantastic, hilarious film. Pass the popcorn and let's see it again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars i ham a good egg!, 11 Mar 2005
By 
BA Baracus "BA" (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) - See all my reviews
this is a wonderful little film, typical Jarmusch and i was not disappointed.
the region 1 dvd offers a lot of extras such as an extensive Q&A with Jarmusch about the film, interviews, Cannes promo, and another more humourous Q&A with fans about anything Jarmusch related and much much more.
the film itself is in my opinion his masterpiece, riffing on jaques becker's le trou and taking it into some odd comical fantasy elements.
tom waits, john lurie and roberto benigni are perfectly cast as trio of misfits who end up in prison and somehow manage to escape and find their way to safety.
robby muller's cinematography is wonderful and there is real depth and beauty in it that colour would never have brought out.
be warned if slow character driven pictures are not your thing then this might not be for you but if you enjoy that sort of thing you will be greatly rewarded.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Watch - You'll Enjoy This!, 15 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Down By Law [DVD] (DVD)
This delightful low budget, indie film, was made in 1986, but remains so watchable. Firstly, the cinematography is strikingly different and the black and white film is crisp, clear and looks wonderfully natural.
It is full of downbeat emotions and scenarios but still quirky and funny and somehow uplifting.
The opening scenes of the architecture of the down town New Orleans buildings are very eye-catching as is the stark, minimalist cells at the prison. The griminess of the bayou swamps would of course have looked better in colour, but perhaps it adds to its dankness?
The comedy is provided by Roberto Begnigni (Roberto) but the dead pan responses from his two other escapees blend in perfectly.
The prison scene is caught perfectly when the chirpy Roberto draws a window on the cell wall. He asks his cell mate, excitedly, in his broken English, "Do you say in English, looking through the window or looking out of the window?
His cell mate only too aware of what their predicament is and that there's unfortunately no window to look out of, dryly says in an uninterested and deadpan fashion, " I think that's looking at the window!"
This is typical of the dry / black humour of the film. There's a wonderful scene at the end, in a little café which is in the middle of nowhere, when the effervescent Roberto falls instantly in love with the lovely looking café owner. He has this very sexy and exhibitionist dance with her whilst his two mates look on a bit bewildered and embarrassed - great scene, among many. An excellent film; I really enjoyed it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Swamped, 13 Dec 2013
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Down By Law [DVD] (DVD)
Floppy-haired Tom Waits is Zack, an out-of-work DJ in New Orleans, whose girl - Ellen Barkin in a far too brief role - throws him out, after which he gets framed for a killing. John Lurie (excellent) is Jack, a pimp who likewise finds himself on the wrong side of the law, set up in a paedophile scam. Roberto Benigni is Roberto,
an effusive Italian who shares their prison cell for reasons unclear.
They escape.
They make their weary, hapless way through the Louisiana swamps.
Roberto keeps their spirits up - he even cooks a rabbit he`s caught - and they somehow reach...what? Well, it`s something and nothing, like this highly likeable film.
It wouldn`t be amiss to say that you either like Jim Jarmusch`s films or they leave you cold. I like `em.
Down By Law was the first I ever saw, over 25 years ago, and it still looks good, in its black & white finery, the early scenes in the city lit with a depraved glow, and the later scenes in the swamps eerie and oddly quiet (the budget obviously not running to that many sound effects etc).
There`s perhaps a little too much time spent in the jail, making the outdoor scenes, when they`re on the run - though there`s no real sense of anyone chasing them - seem rather static at times. But this is still a unique film in its oddball way, and is one of Jarmusch`s most enjoyable early films.
Waits was a good actor who became a fine one (to my mind he`s the best thing in Coppola`s Dracula, and he`s superb with Lily Tomlin in Altman`s Short Cuts) while John Lurie is someone far better known in the States, who is watchable and has his own lanky style.
Benigni plays a version of himself, but he`s actually very good and, thankfully, restrained, at least by his standards.
The final scenes, straining credibility as they do, are nonetheless delightful, as our anti-heroes find (presumably) their own `ways of escape`.
I`m a sucker for the Jarmusch touch, though there`s no denying he gets away with murder, in most of his films. But rather this than many a big-budget blockbuster or facetious romcom.
This was made in 1986, in an excellent decade for unusual American films. It is as much about America as Deliverance or Southern Comfort, albeit on a much smaller budget. I like it a lot. I`m glad I`ve got a copy. It`ll be watched again, and I`ll enjoy it just as much the next time. It`s not perfect, but it`s so much more nourishing than many a `perfect` movie.

Recommended, to all lovers of offbeat cinema.
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5.0 out of 5 stars swimmer, 14 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Down By Law [DVD] (DVD)
the person I bought it for at christmas really appreciated it and said they had thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, grey & magical masterpiece, 6 Sep 2011
By 
This review is from: Down By Law [DVD] (DVD)
The photography is great. The music is genius. The actors are awesome. The story is very original. The director is amazing. Another great, superb & brilliant creation of Jim Jarmusch.
Antonia Tejeda, Spain.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderfully Oddball Gem, 26 May 2011
By 
Sebastian Palmer "sebuteo" (Cambridge, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Down By Law [1986] [DVD] (DVD)
This is, for me at any rate, easily one of Jarmusch's best movies, with Mystery Train and Stranger Than Paradise being my other two top picks from the director. As his career has gone on, I think his indie/art-house sensibility has become a little blunted, to the degree that, even though Night on Earth and Dead Man are both very good, and sufficiently off the Hollywood track, they were no longer compelling, and I lost interest in Jarmusch more or less completely with Ghost Dog. Hip-hop and assassins? Even though it's given the Jarmusch treatment, these are the stuff of the mainstream.

Down by Law, by contrast with Ghost Dog, is everything I love most about Jarmusch: a slow moving, rambling, character driven piece, with just enough of a gossamer thin storyline holding the seemingly disparate threads together. Waits and Lurie are both fabulous as different shades of a nonetheless similar low-rent cool-dude-cum-loser type. So self-consciously hip it's painful, and yet withal, possessed of a winning charm and charisma that makes them both likeable, and compelling: you want to know how it pans out for them.

The film also has a dreamy quality, and, for me at least, the opening sequence, a beautifully shot drive-by of a rather squalid N'awlins street, with Tom Waits' 'Jockey Full Of Bourbon' (a song whose title pretty much sums up Waits' character in the movie), is a dream come true. The photography of Robby Muller, who was also the camera man responsible for the bleak desolate beauty of Wim Wenders' masterpiece Paris, Texas is simply stunning, and, like the 'snapshot poetics' of some of America's best black and white photography (in the vein of everybody from Walker Evans to Robert Frank, through Ginsberg and Weegee to Edward Weston), distils something magical from the banal.

As well as the visual beauty, theirs the fantastic soundtrack. John Lurie, leader and saxophone player of his own art-house jazz-inflected group The Lounge Lizards (most of whom are the band who he recorded this soundtrack with), supplies a brilliantly evocative score (available in its own right here: Down By Law. The movie is also bookended by two fabulous songs from Tom Waits, both taken from his Rain Dogs album, the aforementioned 'Jockey, and, to close out the film over the end credits, the angular and wonky piano tune 'Tango 'Til They're Sore'. Waits' music inspired Coppola to build a whole movie around it (the rather odd and slightly flat One From The Heart, the Waits album of the same name being a far more successful proposition). Whilst Lurie's music is very different to Waits', the two work together to give the film even more of a homogenous character.

The chemistry between Jack and Zack (Lurie and Waits respectively), is brilliant; a love-hate rivalry, as they strive to out-cool each other. Bernigni's character is, by contrast, endearingly straightforward and unpretentious, and he becomes the comedic catalyst that binds the trio together as the go on the lamb from the law. There's some good supporting acting from the two main female characters, played by Ellen Barkin and Nicoletta Braschi, that make brief appearances in what is really an all-male buddy movie. Also worthy of note are brief turns from the fabulously named Rockets Redglare, and the rather obscure Joy N. Houck Jr. despite the apparent flimsiness of the plot-line, there's actually a lot that happens, albeit in a slow and understated manner.

All in all a very dreamy movie, and, like Paris, Texas, which was filmed only two years before, it captures a rather bleak melancholy downbeat mood that is somehow very charming. Perhaps it could be said that it captures, in cinematic terms, that Brazilian quality of 'saudade', a kind of happy-sadness, a quality usually best evoked in music, so all the more wonderful when achieved in celluloid. Brilliant!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A STUDY OF ENNUI, 3 Sep 2010
By 
A. Hussain "atticus" (essex uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Down By Law [1986] [DVD] (DVD)
IF YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN BLUE YOU WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND THIS,SO SAVE YOUR MONEY BUT HEEEEYYY THIS IS PLANET EARTH RIGHT?WATCH IT JUST IN CASE, YOU NEVER KNOW EH, GREAT MOVIE.
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Down By Law [1986] [DVD]
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