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Down by Law (The Criterion Collection)

87 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Tom Waits, John Lurie, Ellen Barkin. Intriguing, amusing story of three losers who wind up in jail together and then make a break for it. Directed by Jim Jarmusch. 1986/b&w/107 min/R/widescreen.

Additional Features

The low-budget aesthetic of Jim Jarmusch informs the eclectic bonus features on Criterion's Down by Law DVD. A high-definition digital transfer ensures that the film never looked or sounded better, and Jarmusch's wide-ranging reflections offer a welcome alternative to a full-length commentary. The 1986 Cannes press conference is a polyglot affair, providing interesting then-and-now perspectives on the film and its creators, energized by the effervescent personality of Roberto Benigni. John Lurie's Cannes interview is a hangover in progress, and his 2002 commentary a self-deprecating reflection on his wilder past. In a 2002 interview, cinematographer Robby Müller eloquently defines his artistic outlook and the technical aspects of shooting Down by Law, while the "Jarmusch Q&A" entertainingly answers e-mails (some serious, some peculiar) sent to Criterion's Web site. Jarmusch's 2002 phone calls to Tom Waits, Lurie, and Benigni are casual curios, as is the rarely seen, Jarmusch-directed video for Waits's eccentric Cole Porter cover, "It's All Right with Me." Sit back and enjoy; coffee and cigarettes are optional. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital transfer
  • Thoughts and reflections by Jim Jarmusch
  • Outtakes
  • 2002 video interview with director of photography Robby Muller
  • 1986 Cannes Film Festival press conference with Jarmusch and stars John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, and Nicoletta Braschi
  • 1986 John Lurie interview with commentary
  • Q & A with Jim Jarmusch
  • Jim Jarmusch's phone calls with Lurie, Benigni, and Waits
  • Isolated music track
  • Production Polaroids
  • Location stills
  • Music video of Tom Waits' cover of Cole Porter's "It's All Right with Me," directed by Jim Jarmusch

Product Details

  • Actors: Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Ellen Barkin
  • Directors: Jim Jarmusch
  • Writers: Jim Jarmusch
  • Producers: Alan Kleinberg, Cary Brokaw, Jim Stark, Otto Grokenberger, Russell Schwartz
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Special Edition, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: October 22, 2002
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JKFX
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,107 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Down by Law (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 65 people found the following review helpful By robb0117 on October 20, 2002
Format: DVD
This "Down By Law" DVD is a perfect example of why I love the Criterion Collection's catalog. First off, the film looks and sounds fantastic. If you are familiar with this film, you are aware of Lurie's incredible soundtrack. The DVD does not disappoint. Visually, it is stunning. If this DVD package only delivered these elements, I would be happy. But, this DVD is filled to the gills with extras. Not only are there extras, but a double disk of extras! Remember, this is "Down By Law", not LOTR, Star Wars I, etc. This is a borderline cult/ art house film with a small, but strong fan base. Never, never, never would another company pour as much love and energy for the DVD of a film of this type. Take for example "Stranger than Paradise:" no face lift and no extras. "Down By Law" DVD notables: the entire Cannes press conference, Lurie interview for French TV in 1986 plus his 2002 commentary on his interview, extensive audio tracks of Jim Jarmusch discussing the film and answering fans QA (sent from the Criterion web site - Was Tom Waits really drunk? What does 'Down By Law' mean?), Robby Muller interview, Tom Waits video directed by Jarmusch with commentary, etc. etc, etc.
If you are a fan, there is no reason to miss this one. If you are curious about Jim Jarmusch as a director, this is the DVD to start on. A flawless package.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By tokyodoll on February 14, 2003
Format: DVD
I can't say enough good things about the "Down By Law" Criterion DVD! The high-definition digital film transfer is wonderful and it really shows off Robby Muller's breathtaking b/w camera work. The DVD has 2 discs and the packaging is well done. The first disc contains the film itself and the second disc is packed full of goodies such as the insightful "Thoughts & Reflections" from director Jim Jarmusch, a "2002 Video Interview" with director of photography Robby Muller, "1986 Cannes Film Festival Press Conference" with Jarmusch and cast members John Lurie, Roberto Benigni & Nicoletta Braschi that is fun to watch, a great "1986 Interview" with John Lurie + his hilarious commentary on the interview, a bunch of film "Outtakes" which feature some great never before seen bits (especially with Lurie!) a terrific Tom Waits music video for "It's All Right With Me" also directed by Jarmusch and 3 wonderful recorded phone conversations from 2002 that Jarmusch had with Waits, Benigni and Lurie about making "Down By Law", etc.
The extras on the DVD give an intimate view of this very personal film and are amazing to watch and listen to. It's so complete that I can't imagine what else could be added to the Criterion release to make it more perfect. Many years from now when Jarmusch and the cast have left this sad and beautiful world, this gem will no doubt be a priceless look at one of the best American films ever made by one of America's best directors. Fantastic! One of the best films Criterion has released.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Marc A. Coignard on March 17, 2005
Format: DVD
I haven't seen all of Jarmusch's films, but I've seen plenty (Ghost Dog, Mystery Train, Stranger than Paradise, Dead Man) to know this is probably gonna go down as my favorite of them all. Jarmusch and photographer Mueller do a brilliant job setting everything up. Its style is as classic and effective as the film noirs of the 1950s, including the seedy characters, the dialogue, and the moody jazz courtesy of John Lurie, one of the film's stars. Story wise, we're dealing with two lowlifes, a pimp and a recently fired DJ, who don't know each other, who are each set up and sent to prison for crimes they didn't commit. They are thrown in a cell together, and eventually an Italian who accidentally killed a man after cheating at a game of cards (hit him with an 8-ball--CLASSIC!) and find a way to escape. John Lurie is the pimp, Tom Waits is the DJ, and Robert Benigni makes his American film debut as Bob, the Italian. (Ironically, he is the kindest, funniest, most jovial of the trio, yet he is the only one who actually is guilty of the crime he's in for).

I've read the other reviews, and I'm dissapointed in why some people don't like the film. First off, I believe that Criterion has once again given us a top of the line DVD transfer. The extras are great for folks that are into the "hows" and "whys" of a film, as I am, and the transfer itself is clear and beautiful to watch.

The acting may not be the best (Lurie was adequite), the dialogue and storyline are right out of the 50s, and help the mood of the entire thing. The characters are introduced perfectly so that we don't really need to know why they're being set-up. Our imagination can do the walking for us there.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By E. Dolnack on March 7, 2003
Format: DVD
This unique and original film is a personal masterpiece, a real sleeper. I'd recommed it to anyone interested in non-formula American cinema in general, and fans of the macabre. It ranks up there with some of the better black and white movies of recent times, in the mold of Woody Allen's "Manhattan".
What made this film great for me, was that the director masterly chose to leave out extraneous footage and instead keep our focus on character development - much the way Jean Luc Goddard does. Indeed Goddard's stamp is felt everywhere in this picture, which is why I liked it so much. This is America's answer to neorealism and done very well. The fact that we don't really see exactly how the main characters escape from prison, nor do we see how Zack rescues Bob from his fear of swimming add (rather than detract from) the plot, and give us more time with the personal nature of the characters, their "everyday chit-chat", etc, is what gives this film its charm. I won't give away the ending, but even that is told in an unorthodox manner, which is a breath of fresh air from formula Holywood films.
The acting is surprisingly naturalistic and believable, and Tom Waits gives an especially brilliant performance here. Roberto Bernini is hilarious as the sort of comic sidekick to the two streetwise contenders of the trio - this is a truly original chemistry of character mixes, and the film could have taken the more traditional path of "straight-guy/goofy-guy" as in Laurel & Hardy or Abbot & Costello, but instead wisely opts to break new ground by having two "straight" characters that battle it out for leadership.
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