Down by Law

Watch Down by Law

"It's not where you start - It's where you start again."
  • R
  • 1986
  • 1 hr 47 min
  • 7.7  (54,998)
  • 75

Down by Law, a 1986 black comedy directed by Jim Jarmusch, is an outsider's view of life in New Orleans. The film features Tom Waits as a disheveled DJ and aspiring pimp, John Lurie as an unemployed Italian-American man, and Roberto Benigni as an overenthusiastic, hyperactive, and jailbreaking Italian tourist. The story revolves around three people from different backgrounds who meet by chance in a Louisiana jail. Zack, a DJ, is arrested for causing a disturbance in a bar, Jack, an unemployed man, is arrested for a crime he didn't commit, and Roberto is arrested for accidentally setting fire to his hotel room. Together they spend time in a cramped and humid cell before escaping and embarking on a memorable adventure through the swamps.

The film is filled with the signature humor and dry wit of Jim Jarmusch, as well as his penchant for offbeat characters drawn to the fringes of society. Jarmusch's direction is fueled by the infectious energy of his three leads, all of whom deliver standout performances. The three leads all display remarkable chemistry and genuine camaraderie, despite being from wildly different backgrounds.

The cinematography of the movie is one of its most impressive aspects. The film's vivid portrayal of New Orleans is somewhat impressionistic, showcasing the city's architecture, landscapes, and people through a surrealistic, dreamlike lens. Atmospheric moments, such as the opening scenes with Tom Waits and John Lurie repeatedly spitting on the ground, illustrate Jarmusch's creative use of idiosyncratic imagery.

The musical score is another highlight, with Waits providing the film's score and a few musical performances, including "Jockey Full of Bourbon" and "Tango Till They're Sore." Waits' whiskey-tinged voice and jazzy piano playing fit the movie's melancholic and off-kilter tone like a glove. The sounds of the city, from street musicians to gospel choirs, also feature prominently in the movie's aural landscape.

One of the most impressive elements of the film is its pacing. The comedy is smart and subtle, and the plot unfolds at a deliberate and measured pace, giving each scene the time to breathe and allowing the characters to develop naturally. The result is a movie that is both outrageous and charmingly low-key in equal measure.

Down by Law showcases the ways in which cinema can capture the unique rhythm and flavor of a place, which in this case is the city of New Orleans. By capturing the city's distinct beauty, flavor, and mythology, the film expresses a deep appreciation for the transformative powers of travel and the joys of adventure. Through Jarmusch's lovingly weird lens, we are invited to experience the city's sights, sounds, and rhythms in a way that feels familiar yet still exotic.

Moreover, the movie is also a testament to the transformative power of friendship, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. Amidst the humor and surreal chaos of the film's plot, the bond that forms between the three prisoners reminds us that, despite our differences and flaws, we are all capable of creating profound connections with each other.

Overall, Down by Law is a quirky, idiosyncratic, and wholly original film that showcases Jim Jarmusch's gifts for off-kilter humor, character development, and visual storytelling. The film's wit, musicality, and cinematic style make it a standout piece of work, a true gem of 1980s cinema, and a must-watch for all lovers of dark-comedies, independent cinema or those who have a special place in their heart for the unsettling beauty of New Orleans.

Down by Law is a 1986 crime movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 47 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.7 and a MetaScore of 75.

Down by Law
Where to Watch Down by Law
Down by Law is available to watch, stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime, Max, Apple TV and Amazon. Some platforms allow you to rent Down by Law for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 47 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.7  (54,998)
  • Metascore