Once in the Life (2001)



Critic Consensus: Once in a Life is a promising directorial effort by Laurence Fishburne. But the story is too conventional and similar to the many ghetto action/dramas that come before it.

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Movie Info

Actor Laurence Fishburne makes his debut as a director in this urban drama adapted from his one-act stage play +Riff Raff. 20/20 Mike (Fishburne) and his half-brother Torch (Titus Welliver) bump into each other under less than ideal circumstances -- both are in jail, Mike on parole violation and Torch for theft. Torch is a heroin addict who has trouble financing his habit, so when Mike says he has a plan to make some quick money, Torch is more than eager to help. Mike and Torch try to swindle Hector (Andres "Dres" Titus), who works with his uncle Freddie Nine Lives (Dominic Chianese Jr.) as a bagman for drug kingpin Manny Rivera (Paul Calderon). While Mike and Torch are able to grab a large cache of heroin that Hector is carrying for Manny, the plan soon goes haywire and Hector and his men suffer heavy casualties. Mike and Torch go on the lam, while Manny's henchmen find Freddie and beat a confession out of him -- in which he names Mike and Torch as the thieves. Manny wants his money back and hires an enforcer named Tony (Eamonn Walker) to find Mike and Torch and get the cash. To insure that Tony doesn't waste time, Manny holds Tony's wife (Annabella Sciorra) captive until the money is returned. Noted jazz artist Branford Marsalis composed the film's original music score.
R (adult situations/language, violence)
Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:


Laurence Fishburne
as 20/20 Mike
Dominic Chianese
as Freddie Nine Lives
Dominic Chianese Jr.
as Freddie Nine Lives
Gregory Hines
as Ruffhouse
Tiger Chen
as Chino
Tim White
as Little Billy
Justin Pierre Edmund
as Little Mickey
Huey Morgan
as Carlos
Madison Riley
as Precious
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Once in the Life

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (14)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Needlessly convoluted storytelling, talkiness and misplaced narrative emphasis.

December 31, 1999
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

A hit-and-miss effort.

December 31, 1999
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic

In opening up his play for a filmed version, Once in the Life, Fishburne may have only succeeded in magnifying the flaws of his original.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Top Critic

While this cautionary tale of brotherhood gone wrong doesn't exactly break new ground, it certainly shows off its writer-director-star's triple-threat filmmaking potency.

December 31, 1999
Mr. Showbiz
Top Critic

Fishburne is able to create such an effective balance between humor and anxiety that the movie survives its familiarities of character and language.

December 31, 1999
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Once in the Life

Rotten blaxploitation trash. I paused and paid attention to the terrible dialogue for a moment and counted SEVEN "fucks" in two lines. That kind of writing is hard to watch.

Mike Bierman
Mike Bierman

I had a small part in this film as the desk clerk at the apartment building. Had alot of great conversation with Lawrence. Great direction. Made me feel comfortable. Thanks Lawrence!

Crystal Glass
Crystal Glass

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