Synopsis by Mark Deming
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.
false-conviction, frame-up, inmate, life-sentence, prison-camp, moonshine, sheriff, friendship
High Production Values