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by Ione Leblanc & Sˇkou

Credits: Directed by Ted Demme Wrting credits - Robert Ramsey (V) and Matthew Stone (I) Producer by Brian Grazer, James D. Brubaker and Karen Kehela.

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Obba Babatunde, Ned Beatty, Bernie Mac, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Clarence Williams III, Bokeem Woodbine, Guy Torry, Lisa Nicole Carson and others.

Entertaining is definitely a word that aptly describes Life–but then what else would you expect from a movie starring both Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, two of entertainment’s most lauded funny-men?

Life, an idea which found its origin in the mind of Eddie Murphy, made it to the silver screen with the help of collaborator Brian Grazer and screenwriters Robert Ramsey & Matthew Stone. As Murphy and Grazer developed the idea into a screenplay, Life was expanded to include themes such as friendship, justice and race relations in the Deep South.

To maintain the realism of prison life, the filmmakers conducted extensive research on the prison system in the South–the highest income-generating "business" after slavery was abolished. Many innocent men, usually minorities, were sent to these prisons by the justice system to perform labor akin to that found in slavery.


When Raymond Gibson (Murphy), a street-smart hustler, and Claude Banks (Lawrence), a bourgeoisie bank teller, first encounter each other in the men’s rooms of a swank New York club in the 1930’s, it isn’t a happy occasion. It’s even less of a happy occasion when they are both hustled by a dapper gangster who wants to make an example out of them. In a bit of fast-talking characteristic of his character, Ray makes a deal to work off their debt by running moonshine from Mississippi to New York. Naturally, this turns out to be easier said than done, and the unlikely duo soon find themselves sitting in a Mississippi jail framed for murder. The movie takes it’s name from the sentence handed down to both men for the crime they didn’t commit: life in prison. We then follow Claude and Ray through sixty years of bittersweet friendship in the same Mississippi prison.



Life utilizes the talents of both industry veterans and neophytes alike. From the outset, Murphy's eyes were set on Martin Lawrence as his comic co-star. Continuing the trend of recording artists crossing over into the screen world, Life offers cameos by former funk recording artist Rick James, rap master and record industry executive Heavy D, and that funky diva of En Vogue, Dawn Robinson. Of course, Clarence Williams III (veteran of the original "Mod Squad" series) played the devious role of Winston Hancock with the aplomb typical of his stature. Also of note was a cameo by Bonz Malone, a columnist for Vibe magazine last seen in Slam.


No doubt the people queued up in front of theaters showing Life expected to come out with aching stomachs and tears in their eyes from laughing so hard. But Life isn’t that kind of movie. It’s not fully a comedy, which is fitting enough considering the subject matter, but neither is it a serious movie. It falls somewhere in the middle, seemingly undecided about which path it wants to take. I’d be lying if I said you won’t laugh, but just as certainly you’ll have to trudge through a few scenes that seem to go nowhere.

For a more serious look at life behind bars [click here] to check out blackfilm.com’s review of The Farm: Angola USA.

(c) blackfilm.com inc


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