Life (1999) - Rotten Tomatoes


Life (1999)



Critic Consensus: Entertaining if not over-the-top humor from a solid comic duo provides plenty of laughs.

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Movie Info

Comedians Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence team up for a story that wouldn't appear to have many immediate humorous possibilities -- two men serving life sentences in prison for a crime they did not commit. Life opens in Harlem in 1932, where Ray Gibson (Eddie Murphy) is a small-time con man in debt to Spanky, a gangster (Rick James). Ray spots would-be bank teller Claude Banks (Martin Lawrence) at a gambling spot and, figuring him for an easy mark, lifts his wallet -- only to discover Claude is broke. Ray and Claude's mutual need to raise some cash brings them together when Spanky offers them a job bringing back a load of moonshine from bootleggers in the deep south. However, things don't go well for Ray and Claude, and they're arrested by a sheriff in Mississippi who recently killed a man and needs someone on whom he can hang the charge. Since Ray and Claude are black, from out of town and have been caught red-handed with a load of illegal liquor, the sheriff figures they're easy pickings and frames them for the murder. Soon the two men are inmates in a Southern work camp, where they spend the next 55 years learning to get along with the other inmates, avoiding the wrath of the guards, seeing younger prisoners come and go and never losing hope that someday, somehow, their innocence will be proven and they'll be released. Life is the second screen pairing for Murphy and Lawrence, who also shared screen time in 1992's Boomerang, and was scripted by Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone from an original idea by Murphy. The supporting cast includes Ned Beatty, Clarence Williams III, Bernie Mac, Nick Cassavetes and R. Lee Ermey.

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Eddie Murphy
as Rayford Gibson
Martin Lawrence
as Claude Banks
Ned Beatty
as Dexter Wilkins
Obba Babatundé
as Willie Long
Bernie Mac
as Jangle Leg
Bokeem Woodbine
as Can't Get Right
Brent Jennings
as Hoppin' Bob
Guy Torry
as Radio
O'Neal Compton
as Superintendant Abernathy
Clarence Williams III
as Winston Hancock
Poppy Montgomery
as Older Mae Rose
Nick Cassavetes
as Sgt. Dillard
Noah Emmerich
as Stan Blocker
Rick James
as Spanky
Heavy D
as Jake
Ned Vaughn
as Young Sherriff Pike
R. Lee Ermey
as Older Sherriff Pike
Allyson Call
as Young Mae Rose
Brooks Almy
as Billy's Mama
Hildy Brooks
as Nurse Doherty
Ernie Bank
as Bathroom Attendant
Johnny Brown
as Blind Reverend Clay
Armelia McQueen
as Mrs. Clay
Nate Evans
as Juke Bartender
Todd Everett
as Deputy at Mansion
Don Harvey
as Man with Lantern
Venus DeMilo Thomas
as Juke Joint Waitress
Zaid Farid
as Shady Cardplayer
Keith Burke
as Shady Cardplayer
Steven Barr
as Fireman
Leonard O. Turner
as Superindent Burke
Augie Blunt
as Man in Prison
Quantae Love
as Trustee at Line
Sean Lampkin
as Trustee at Line
James Emory Jr.
as Goldmouth's Son
Bill Gratton
as Fire Inspector
Reamy Hall
as Mrs. Dillard
Corrie Harris
as Sylvia's Girl
Ayanna Maharry
as Sylvia's Girl
George Hampton
as Prison Guard
Zack Helvey
as Captain Tom Burnette
Kimble Jemison
as Gang Banger
Jordan Mahome
as Gang Banger
Oscar Jordan
as Juke Joint Guitarist
Jordan Lund
as Funeral Chaplain
Bridgett Morrow
as Cocktail Waitress
Betty Murphy
as Mrs. Abernathy
Joseph Rappa
as Disgruntled Fan
Dawn Robinson
as Club Crooner
Leon Sanders
as Barkeep
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News & Interviews for Life

Critic Reviews for Life

All Critics (55) | Top Critics (16)

Life plays more like This Is Your Life for Eddie Murphy, cobbling together elements from his earlier, funnier movies.

January 1, 2000

Lawrence's best movie and one of Murphy's best!

January 1, 2000

We have been treated to something we normally would never get in a prison comedy like this: a little delicacy with the humor.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Funny, sad, conventional, unpredictable -- just like the real thing!

January 1, 2000

Ambitious, enjoyable.

January 1, 2000

A very funny/surprisingly poignant story!

January 1, 2000

Audience Reviews for Life


The film is difficult to hone in as a comedy or drama. Despite its obvious flaws Life still is tightly held by the dynamic performances and chemistry of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. 3.5/5

Eugene Bernabe
Eugene Bernabe

Super Reviewer


If you go to the movies to be entertained, it doesn't get much better than this. It certainly is no serious take on a subject that would be all-too serious elsewhere, but the double entendre of the title belies the reason, besides all the talent present, why this film works so well. While on the surface, Claude and Ray are sentenced to life in prison for a crime they didn't commit, the real story here is about life-the ups and downs, the choices you make, and the friends you sometimes can't stand but ultimately depend upon along the way. Both Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence became known for, along with being very funny, the characters they create. Murphy with the Nutty Professor characters, demonstrates serious acting ability while creating laughs. They don't do that so much here, but these guys age from mid-20s to 90s convincingly. Their love-hate "old married couple" bickering will leave you in stitches. The rest of the cast is as underappreciated as this movie is in general. They're hilarious and memorable. I've been repeating Bernie Mac's lines and the "cornbread" scene for years. Casting R. Lee Ermey as the racist bad guy was genius too. Watch this movie please, and if you've seen it watch it again. I was prompted to write this review having just seen it uncut for the first time. While the edited version delivers the plot well enough, you'll laugh along with the theatrical version much more. They're "keepin it real!"

Clintus Maximus
Clintus Maximus

Super Reviewer


Typical, if better-than-average, buddy movie about a pair of would-be bootleggers framed for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The stars carry the proceedings with some nonstop bickering, but occasionally one of the supporting cast members gets an all-too-brief moment to shine.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

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