Life (1999)

Finally these two all-stars meet up but in a jail.

It’s 1932; Ray (Eddie Murphy) is a small-time hustler, and Claude Banks (Martin Lawrence) is a bank teller with a taste for gambling. When Ray picks Claude’s pocket to pay off a debt, the two men are framed and land in the same jail for 60 years; trouble is, they can’t stand each other! Stuck in a work camp, they hope to be proved innocent someday — if they don’t kill each other in the meantime.

I first heard about this film and was interested in seeing it cause it had my two favorite African-American comedians finally together in a movie. I was just expecting on-going laughs from these great actors, and although I got that the story of this film was a lot more than I was even thinking about.

However, this movie has an inherent sadness to it. These two men have their dreams crushed and are trapped in prison their entire lives. And yet they always remain hopeful about getting out and starting their lives. It creates a weird balance in the movie between the comic and the tragic.

Life started to lose me cause I think the way the whole film acted around it’s setting didn’t seem like the place for comedic effect. The Louisiana prison they are sentenced to, the future there isn’t so bright and many moments are very serious but aren’t taken very seriously, and that’s what kind of threw me off this film. I think this story could’ve really worked if it was used in a 1999 prison instead a 1930’s one.

I liked the comedy though even without the serious parts. I felt like the comedy does get a little over-the-top, but overall succeeds in making you laugh. I enjoyed how the jokes weren’t really centered towards racism and crime jokes and they stood up between mature and sometimes immature.

Lawrence and Murphy really do shine in this film however. I hear that they didn’t really like their Director Ted Demme, but he must have done something to them cause they give out great little performances here. This is very different from a lot of their other work, because it has more of a serious side to it, but they do take the ball and run with this film every scene they get. There are also little supporting characters in this film that are good that feature Bernie Mac (R.I.P), Anthony Anderson, and if you don’t blink you can catch Ned Beatty.

Consensus: Life is set-up in a very strange way, but features great performances from Lawrence and Murphy, and a great life lesson on love and friendship.


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