Justin Lubin
Ken Tucker
September 26, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Life (1999)

type
Movie
genre
Comedy
Wide Release Date
04/16/99
runtime
112 minutes
performer
Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, Anthony Anderson, Obba Babatunde, Ned Beatty, Lisa Nicole Carson, Clarence Williams III, Bernie Mac, Cicely Tyson
director
Ted Demme
Producer
Eddie Murphy
distributor
MCA, Universal
author
Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R

We gave it an A-

The British actor Damian Lewis, beloved by some of us for his smart, sensitive role in HBO’s Band of Brothers, does a perfect American accent in Life, a very good new show that needs a more vivid title and more of NBC’s promotional oomph.

Lewis plays Charlie Crews, an L.A. cop who spent 12 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit. Now exonerated and with a handsome settlement, Charlie opts to return to his beat, even though he could retire on his new wealth. The premise of Life is that prison changed Charlie profoundly; he maintained his sanity by adopting a state of Zen calm and philosophical quizzicality. These new skills now help him solve crimes.

If that premise seems more appropriate to a USA Network, ”Characters Welcome” series like Psych or Burn Notice, well, that may be true: Contemplative Life doesn’t fit with NBC’s hypier new shows like Journeyman or Bionic Woman. Charlie — partnered with Dani Reese (The L Word‘s Sarah Shahi), an imagination-free detective who has substance-abuse demons — chews fresh fruit compulsively and interrogates in a soothing murmur. He tells suspects, ”I hate cops too” — and many of his fellow officers, who don’t buy his DNA-evidence pardon, hate him, too.

I love Lewis’ character; ditto Adam Arkin as his buddy/financial advisor and Robin Weigert — Deadwood‘s Calamity Jane — who enlivens a crusty-police-captain role that’s written merely as an impersonation of Dann Florek in Law & Order: SVU. Life is intelligent fun. B+

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