Down by Law (1986)  » Movies  »
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  • I enjoyed it, but I don't think I'd bother watching it again

    • by tfedge

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      “Down by Law” is a 1986 US movie in English filmed in black and white. The 107 movie is in some ways a series of vignettes that tell the stories of three men who meet in prison, serve time together, then escape the Louisiana Parish Prison through a swamp. The interrelationship between the three men is charming, amusing, and heartwarming. Zack, the DJ, Jack the pimp (played by John Lurie), and Roberto, the non-english speaking Italian, forms the meat of the movie. They move from complete strangers to intimate friends

      as they move from the streets of New Orleans, the Louisiana Parish Prison, and the swamps of New Orleans.

      Tom Waits plays Zack, a disc jockey, driven to his own destruction by insisting on doing things his own way instead of following the advice of his employers. When “Down by Law” opens he is living with Laurette, played by Ellen Barkin, who throws him out of her house in a realistic, violent fight between two people shacked up together. When he finds himself living on the street he agrees to drive a car across town for which he’ll be paid $1000. Instead of recognizing this task as a setup, he accepts the money and ends up in Louisiana prison when he is pulled over and a dead body is found in the trunk of the car. Tom Waits is better known as an idiosyncratic musician with an eclectic style than he is an actor. He appeared in “The Outsiders,” “Rumble Fish,” and the “Cotton Club.”

      The Roberto Benigni of “Down by Law” is not exactly the happy, bouncy character from “Pinocchio” ...

      • Down by Law (1986)
      or “Life is Beautiful.” “Down by Law” tells of the seamier side of life in an almost film noir style and Benigni fits right in. His apparently natural delight in the world is there as he makes his way through the prison and the swamp. His proclivity to talking shows itself throughout the movie, sometimes to the dismay of his fellow characters.

      Director Jim Jarmusch has won twenty-two lesser film awards, but has been ignored by major awards and by American Audiences.

      Favorite moments include when Benigni nearly causes a

      prison riot when he leads his two cellmates, and the nearby prisons in the chant, “I scream. You scream. We all scream. For ice scream.” Just as the guards enter our three heroes quiet down and appear innocent. I don’t that doesn’t sound particularly interesting, but watch it and see.

      “Down by Law” is an okay movie. Like many independent movies it doesn’t aim for a mass audience and never will have one. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I’d bother watching it again. 84% or a B.

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