A Murder of Crows (1999) – Review

2 Stars

A Murder of Crows tells a tale of over reaching ambition that leads to a great downfall, and then to revenge. It’s a surprisingly literate and nearly successful thriller written and directed by Rowdy Harrington of Road House infamy. That this implausible story is made believable in the least is due mainly to its steller cast.

Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Lawson Russell a disbarred attorney who moves to Key West to spend his day’s fishing and writing his long put-off novel. A year goes bye and he’s a borderline drunk and has only written six pages. Then one afternoon an elderly man named Mason charters his boat for a day on the Ocean. The two men form a quick kinship and Mason feels comfortable enough to let Lawson read a manuscript of his unpublished book. Bemused at the old man’s confidence in himself the struggling writer agrees to read the crime-thriller.

Lawson tears through the pages finishing in one night, and the next morning he goes to deliver the manuscript back to Mason. Turns out the elder man passed away in his sleep, leaving no next of kin. So, the greedy former attorney with writer’s block takes the unpublished book and puts his name on it. He submits it to a publishing company and almost immediately it becomes a best seller and Lawson Russell is a celebrity.

Detective Clifford Dubose (Tom Berenger) is a sent a copy of Russell’s book and immediately recognizes that it’s not a fictional story but a factual account of a series of gruesome murders. Hunted by detective and the FBI, Lawson must discover who framed him and why.

I’m a big fan of Gooding Jr. and Harrington’s last collaboration Gladiator (the boxing film not the Russell Crowe film). I’ve always found the director’s works as guilty pleasures, but all of his pictures are professionally crafted and paced well. A Murder of Crows has some compelling moments and character actors doing good work, but the overall effect isn’t as profound or mysterious as intended.

Director: Rowdy Harrington
Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Tom Berenger, Eric Stoltz

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