100 Movies You Need to See Before You Die

Down By Law (1986)

Country: USA
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Screenwriter: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: John Lurie, Eszter Balint, Richard Edson, Cecilia Stark

Indie godfather Jim Jarmusch, old deadpan himself, followed up his breakout feature Stranger Than Paradise with another comedy of vagabonds, this time pitting grizzly musicians (Tom Waits, John Lurie) opposite the lovably weird Roberto Begnini in a jailbreak movie that forgoes The Great Escape model for scaled-down drama about quiet moments and occasional bursts of lunacy.

The three acts of this well-tailored comedy break most of the stereotypes for prison films (despite being set on the Bayou), and even a lot of comedy standards (Benigni delivers both the comic relief and the hope for the somewhat soulless Americans). Jarmusch, works in small scale, bringing a slow and patient camera to his subjects. Few in American film have this sort of patience, or think so highly of their viewers. —GT

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