What Is the Plot of the Movie "Life"?

by Dave Stanley
Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence in Ted Demme's

Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence in Ted Demme's "Life."

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The 1999 film "Life," starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, wasn't exactly a runaway success; it just wasn't quite the riotous laugh romp that many people thought it would be. However, on the whole it was humorous entertainment that also had a softer, heartwarming side, chronicling the lives of two polar opposite strangers who eventually become friends. Directed by Ted Demme, it was nominated for an Oscar for best makeup.


The movie begins with Ray Gibson (Eddie Murphy) and Claude Banks (Martin Lawrence) crossing paths at a bar. Claude is just about to embark on a promising career as a banker, while Ray is more of a grifter who lives in the moment. In the bathroom of the bar, Ray robs Claude, making it impossible for him to pay his bill. Ray himself gets in trouble with the bar owner, Spanky (Rick James) when he realizes Claude's wallet has no money. Both are in trouble, but they talk their way out of it by offering to bootleg whiskey for Spanky.


Once in Mississippi with the moonshine, the freewheeling Ray wants to stop at a bar before they head back north to New York. After blowing all of their gas money, they stumble across a man who was killed by the sheriff. Witnesses see Claude and Ray standing over the corpse, and they subsequently get framed. They're convicted and sentenced to life in prison.


Reluctant friends at first, Claude eventually tires of Ray's incessant efforts to spring the two from the prison. They get in an argument, with Claude cursing Ray for ruining his life, and he makes it known that he wishes to never speak to him again. The two are estranged for many years afterwards, but eventually make amends after a guard who's punishing Claude for stealing a pie asks Ray to guard him. Ray refuses, and both are punished, thus re-establishing their bond.


Better friends than before, Claude and Ray eventually begin to accept their fate, becoming model prisoners in the process. They almost get released, but the warden dies of a sudden heart attack before he can process the papers. One night, there is a fire in one of the barracks. Claude is assumed to be trapped inside, and Ray goes in to save him. Both are presumed dead. However, at the end of the movie, it is learned that the two corpses thought to be the men were stolen from the morgue, as the last scene shows Claude and Ray at a New York Yankees game.

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