Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Down By Law. A-

Love him or hate him, Down By Law is still a pretty damn awesome regardless of the presence of Roberto Benigni. I generally can't stand the Italian funny man, and found him only slightly more tolerable here than usual. But the rest of the movie, the triptych story structure, Jim Jarmusch's amazing dialogue, the Tom Waits performance, the soundtrack, are all outstanding. Down By Law does something that hadn't been done before and hasn't since its 1986 release. It starts out as a piece of dark urban realism, then becomes a prison movie, and then smoothly transforms into a 1940s-style screwball comedy. And yet because of the way Jarmusch develops these characters, we never feel as if the different parts don't fit. Rather than contriving a silly three-part narrative, Jarmusch jumps around based on logical results. Benigni, while certainly adding life to the film, gets too much attention that could otherwise have been devoted to making the movie slightly more sophisticated than it ultimately is. Still, Down By Law is a vital piece of 80s Independent film, a black & white chatter box that's as watchable as anything you'll likely ever see. 

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