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