Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ted Demme|
|Produced by||Brian Grazer|
|Written by||Robert Ramsey |
|Music by||R. Kelly |
|Edited by||Jeffrey Wolf|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$73.3 million|
Life is a 1999 American buddy comedy-drama film written by Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone and directed by Ted Demme. The film stars Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. It is the second film that Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence have worked on, the first being Boomerang. The supporting cast includes Ned Beatty, R. Lee Ermey, Obba Babatundé, Bernie Mac, Anthony Anderson, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Bokeem Woodbine, Guy Torry, Michael Taliferro and Barry Shabaka Henley. The film's format is a story being told by an elderly inmate about two of his friends, Ray (Murphy) and Claude (Lawrence), who are both wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Makeup at the 72nd Academy Awards.
In 1997 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, elderly convict Willie Long recounts his friends' life story during their burial. Ray Gibson and Claude Banks, New Yorkers from different worlds, meet at a club called Spanky's in 1932. Ray, a small-time thief, picks Claude as a mark. They annoy the club's owner, who threatens Claude. Ray convinces Spanky to allow himself and Claude to pay off their debt via boot-legging. Claude and Ray travel south to buy Mississippi "hooch". They pay for the booze and enter a local bar, where Ray loses his father's prized pocketwatch to hustler Winston Hancock in a fixed game of cards. Outside, the town's sheriff, Warren Pike, kills Hancock and frames Ray and Claude.
Ray and Claude are sent to perform hard labor at an infamous prison camp. Ray and Claude immediately run afoul of the guards, Sergeant Dillard and Hoppin' Bob, and meet fellow inmates Jangle Leg, who makes a pass at Claude; Willie Long; Biscuit, a homosexual inmate; Radio; Goldmouth, a bully who picks a fight with Ray; Cookie, the chef; and Pokerface. Claude's cousin, an attorney, unsuccessfully appeals his conviction and seduces his girlfriend. With no chance at freedom, Claude and Ray break out, getting as far as Tallahatchie before being captured.
In 1944, Claude and Ray meet a young mute inmate nicknamed "Can't-Get-Right", a talented baseball player who catches the eye of a Negro league scout who suggests a pardon if he agrees to play professionally. Sensing opportunity, Ray and Claude introduce themselves as his handlers. Despite his talent, Can't-Get-Right is often distracted by his attraction to Mae-Rose, the daughter of the Camp 8's superintendent Abernathy. After Mae-Rose gives birth to a biracial boy, Abernathy demands to know the father's identity. Various inmates simultaneously claim to be the father to confuse Abernathy and save Can't-Get-Right. During a dance social, Biscuit confides to Ray that he is due for release but is too ashamed to return to his family because of his homosexuality. Biscuit commits suicide by cop after Bob hesitates to shoot him. When Can't-Get-Right is released without them, Ray and Claude have a falling out, and Ray attempts a number of escapes on his own.
By 1972, Ray and Claude are still not on speaking terms. Everyone but Willie has either died or been released. One day, Claude snaps and runs past armed guards to steal a pie; he is punished by having to stand barefoot on a case of bottles for 24 hours. Dillard offers to set Ray free if he will shoot Claude should he move. Ray refuses and is given the same punishment. Touched, Claude makes amends, and the two repair their friendship. One day, Dillard transfers Ray and Claude to live and work at Superintendent Dexter Wilkins' mansion. Ray does yard work, while Claude works inside the house and befriends Wilkins. Claude is entrusted to pick up the new superintendent, Sheriff Warren Pike. While on a pheasant hunt, Ray notices that Pike has his father's watch and confronts him. He tells Wilkins that Pike framed him and Claude for murder, which the sheriff admits to. As Claude struggles to stop Ray from killing Pike, Pike attempts to kill them both. Realizing that Ray and Claude are innocent, Wilkins kills Pike and covers it up as a hunting accident. Wilkins suffers a fatal heart attack before he can pardon them.
In 1997, Ray and Claude live in the prison infirmary. Claude tells Ray of another plan, but Ray has accepted his fate. That night, the infirmary catches fire, and they seemingly perish in the flames. Willie concludes the tale by outlining Claude's plan: Ray and Claude would steal two bodies from the morgue, start the blaze, plant the bodies, hide in the fire trucks and depart with them in the morning. Willie reveals to the workers and inmates that the plan worked: the bodies they buried are not Ray and Claude, who have escaped back to New York and are watching a baseball game. The two are again on good terms, free and living together in Harlem.
- Eddie Murphy as Rayford "Ray" Gibson
- Martin Lawrence as Claude Banks
- Obba Babatundé as Willie Long
- Ned Beatty as Dexter Wilkins
- Bernie Mac as Jangle Leg
- Miguel A. Núñez Jr. as Biscuit
- Clarence Williams III as Winston Hancock
- Barry Shabaka Henley as Pokerface
- Brent Jennings as Hoppin' Bob
- Guy Torry as Radio
- Nick Cassavetes as Sergeant Dillard
- Bokeem Woodbine as Can't Get Right
- Anthony Anderson as Cookie
- Michael Taliferro as Goldmouth
- Sanaa Lathan as Daisy
- O'Neal Compton as Superintendent Abernathy
- Noah Emmerich as Stan Blocker
- Rick James as Spanky
- R. Lee Ermey as Older Sheriff Pike
- Ned Vaughn as Younger Sheriff Pike
- Heavy D as Jake
- Kenn Whitaker as Isaac
- Bonz Malone as Leon
- Lisa Nicole Carson as Sylvia
- Poppy Montgomery as Older Mae Rose
- Johnny Brown as Blind Reverend Clay
- Don Harvey as Billy Bob
On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 50% based on reviews from 54 critics. The site's critic consensus reads, "Entertaining if not over-the-top humor from a solid comic duo provides plenty of laughs." On Metacritic it has a score of 63 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave it a grade B+.
- Academy Award
- nominated for Best Makeup (2000)
- NAACP Image Award
- nominated for Outstanding Motion Picture (2000)
- BMI Film & TV Awards
- (won) for Most Performed Song from a Film (2000)
- Blockbuster Entertainment Awards
Even though Life was set in Parchman, Mississippi, it was filmed in California; filming locations include Brentwood, CA, Locke, CA, Los Angeles, Downey, CA, and Sacramento, CA. Parts of the film were shot at a Rockwell Defense Plant in California.
A soundtrack containing hip hop and R&B music was released on March 16, 1999 on Rock Land/Interscope Records. It peaked at 10 on the Billboard 200 and 2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and was certified platinum with over 1 million copies sold on June 18, 1999.
- "Eddie Murphy's Charmed 'Life'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
- "Life". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2020-05-20.
- "Life (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes.
- "Life". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-05-20.
- "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
- Cheseborough, Steve, Blues Traveling: The Holy Sites of Delta Blues. University Press of Mississippi, 2004. Also some parts were shot in Angola Prison. This is located in Louisiana. 96. Retrieved from Google Books on September 29, 2010. ISBN 1-57806-650-6, ISBN 978-1-57806-650-6.