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USA 1986
Directed by
Jim Jarmusch
107 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Down By Law

Jim Jarmusch parlayed the success of his previous film Stranger Than Paradise (1984) into this more ambitious effort with John Lurie, who had starred in the earlier film, along with Tom Waits and Roberto Begnini as three ill-assorted losers who meet in a New Orleans prison and escape together through the Louisiana bayou, eventually finding refuge in an isolated wayside stopover owned by an Italian woman (Nicoletta Braschi, who is Begnini's wife).

The casting of Tom Waits in what remains his biggest film role and the unique Roberto Begnini in particular makes for a genial eccentricity that spins around Lurie's ultra-cool centre (there is a small role for Ellen Barkin who drops out of the film relatively early in the piece), and keeps the director’s distinctive dead-pan ironic style and elliptical approach to narrative from wearing thin. The film also benefits greatly from Robby Müller's marvellous black and white cinematography which make the film a visual delight. Add in musical contributions by Waits and Lurie and you've got a likeably offbeat buddy movie for a hipster audience.

FYI: Müller who would become Jarmusch's regular collaborator replaced Tom DiCillo who shot Jarmusch's first two films and who would direct the very Jarmusch-like Johnny Suede (1991)




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