Down by Law


Down by Law

Critics Consensus

Funny, original, and thoroughly cinematic, Down by Law represents writer-director Jim Jarmusch at his most ingratiating and evocative.



Total Count: 29


Audience Score

User Ratings: 22,327
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Movie Info

Jim Jarmusch follows his groundbreaking Stranger Than Paradise with another rambling, character-driven film with a twisted sense of humor. Set in a seedy New Orleans summer, Down By Law details the meeting of three unlikely convicts and their just as unlikely escape. Zack (Tom Waits) is an out-of-work DJ who is accused of murder when a body is found in the trunk of a stolen car he was hired to drive across town. Jack (John Lurie) is a pimp set up for a fall by a competitor. These two sullen souls are locked in a cell with Roberto (Roberto Benigni), a cheerful Italian immigrant who happens to have killed a man. The chemistry between the members of this loosely bound "team" is fascinating: Zack and Jack are forever laughing at Roberto, yet they rely on his energy and good will to escape their dire situation. The three mismatched miscreants eventually bust out of jail and head into the Louisiana bayous. Tired and hungry, they separate to search for food: Waits goes one way, Lurie another, and the frightened Benigni decides to risk stepping into a ramshackle diner. Somehow or other, he winds up in the arms of gorgeous Italian girl Nicoletta Braschi -- and is even able to provide new clothes and escape routes for his astonished comrades!

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Critic Reviews for Down by Law

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (8)

Audience Reviews for Down by Law

  • Sep 30, 2015
    Down By Law is another great Jim Jarmusch film. Like the others, you are either going to feel the vibe or you won't. I find myself agreeing with many of the negative reviews -- sometimes the acting feels ad-libbed, sometimes it does feel like it has a student film quality to it, sometimes it does not end up so cool as it wants to be. But then again, so what? The film has an authenticity to it and many great little moments that would probably not be in it if the cast and crew were not going for it. Down By Law is an all-time great comedy adventure.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 31, 2012
    Odd tale with gorgeous cinematography. Benigni steals the show.
    Hugo S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 29, 2011
    Jim Jarmusch is the king of cinematic understatement. His films -- at least, his early ones -- are always composed of long takes, nuanced characters and rambling dialogue, and they never really seem to be headed anywhere. "Down by Law" is in glorious black-and-white (courtesy of cinematographer Robby Muller) and features understated humor at its finest. John Lurie, Tom Waits and Roberto Benigni are great as Jack, Zack and Bob and give us one of the best movie trios of all time. Basically, the film itself is nothing more than these the lives of these characters before, during and after their time in prison, and it's just as enjoyable as Jarmusch's previous effort, "Stranger Than Paradise."
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • Oct 27, 2011
    Jarmusch's greatest film in my opinion, it features great performances from the three lead roles (especially Tom Waits who is one of my favorite artists) and beautiful black and white shots of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou.
    Graham J Super Reviewer

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