Life

"Good"

Life Review


A surprisingly bittersweet, comedic "Cool Hand Luke,""Life" is more than just an Eddie Murphy comedy or a Martin Lawrencecomedy. It's actually layered with substance and is even affecting in itsportrayal of the bitterness, depression and fleeting moments of happinessexperienced by two falsely imprisoned bootleggers, doing life for a murderthey didn't commit.

I'm not saying Murphy and Lawrence aren't damn funny. Ofcourse they are. But for the first time in either of their careers, they'reboth called on to truly submerge themselves in real characters, and thesetwo comedians with trademark personalities come through remarkably.

Murphy plays a con man and Lawrence a bank clerk rube whoare framed for murder by white cops while on a moonshine run in Mississippi,trying to save their skins from a gangster (funk star Rick James) theyhad both run afoul of at home in New York.

A great augmentative screen pair from their first scenetogether, their love-hate friendship ping-pongs throughout the story, whichspans patches of their prison stay from a quickie, Depression Era convictionthrough to their infirmary years as old men.

Written by Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone ("DestinyTurns On the Radio") with a eye for avoiding too many cliches, "Life"contains no characters from central casting. The supporting cast of inmateswith silly nicknames -- prison couple Jangle Leg and Biscuit (Bernie Mac,Miguel A. Nunez, Jr.), dim bulb baseball prodigy Can't Get Right (BokeemWoodbine), etc. -- and even the warden (Nick Cassavetes) and his cholericyes man, Hoppin' Bob (Brent Jennings), are developed into more than juststock players.

With such unexpectedly creative characters to work withand a script of humor mixed with sobriety, inconsistent director Ted Demme("Monument Ave.," "Beautiful Girls") rises to the occasionalong with his two stars.

The picture is smartly paced and edited, often jumpingahead by decades and skipping over repetitive escape attempts, which areplayed up in the narration. It turns all the more creative and comedicwhen faced with material that's either obligatory (the inevitable racism,the prison yard fight scene) or pilfered ("Cool Hand Luke" isinvoked so often this could almost be considered a remake).

Demonstrating Demme's drive to get something more thangeneric yuks out of "Life," the film is also instilled with apalpable Southern flavor. It has a hot, humid atmosphere and peeled paintprison barracks with rusty wire gates.

Ultimately it's Murphy's and Lawrence's movie, though,and in years to come it may be pointed to as point at which they beganmaturing into more adult movies.

"Life" certainly has its flaws -- for instance,different takes in some argument scenes are painfully obvious and the oldman makeup used last couple reels is waxy and stiff -- but what countshere is the surprising quality of the performances and the even more unexpecteddepth.

Put on auto-pilot, "Life" could have been justanother low-brow comedy aimed insultingly at inner-city audiences. Butwith the care that was invested in the movie at every level, it insteadbecame a refreshingly sincere -- and yes, funny -- movie that might, ifit makes money, even advance the cause of better black mainstream cinema.

(PS: Stay for the credits. The out-takes are a riot.)



Life

Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Friday 16th April 1999

Box Office Worldwide: $73.3M

Budget: $80M

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 27 Rotten: 27

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Rayford Gibson, as Claude Banks, as Willie Long, as Sergeant Dillard, as Jangle Leg, Michael Taliferro as Goldmouth, as Cookie, as Pokerface, Miguel A. Núñez, Jr. as Biscuit, as Can't Get Right, Lisa Nicole Carson as Sylvia, as Daisy

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.