“A Murder of Crows”, released in 1998 and starring Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr., attempts to soar as a neo-noir thriller but lands with a slightly underwhelming thud. Despite its potential and the anticipation surrounding Gooding’s next big project after his Jerry Maguire success, the film failed to make a significant impact at the box office. With less than 9000 people having rated this movie on the IMDB, as well as only 18 critics reviews at the time of writing it’s obvious “A Murder of Crows” did not manage to find its audience the years after.
In “A Murder of Crows,” we delve into the narrative of Lawson Russell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a lawyer stripped of his license who comes into possession of a manuscript from an enigmatic stranger. Following the stranger’s untimely demise, Lawson appropriates the manuscript as his own. As the book gains widespread acclaim, Lawson’s life takes a dark turn when he is arrested for the real-life murders detailed in the narrative—specifically, the deaths of five lawyers. Now, facing the weight of the legal system, Lawson must embark on a quest to prove his innocence and untangle the web of circumstances surrounding the perplexing connection between the manuscript and the actual crimes.
On the downside, “A Murder of Crows” suffers from an overreliance on constant narration, almost veering into spoof territory. The dour ending, seemingly at odds with Lawson’s established intelligence as a lawyer, left me scratching my head. The script’s self-awareness, referencing the film’s title as being “smart,” feels forced and displays a certain level of arrogance by the writer.
Despite being a pivotal project for Gooding Jr., the film inexplicably exudes a low-budget feel, failing to capitalize on the actor’s post-Oscar momentum. The naming choice of his character, Lawson, adds an unnecessary layer of silliness to the movie. It’s like calling a cop in a movie “Copson”. The usage of obvious face prosthetics is distracting. As the audience we are supposed to believe that Lawson is unable to see the thick layers of latex the person he’s interacting with is wearing.
However, “A Murder of Crows” does have its redeeming qualities. The film successfully channels the atmospheric vibes of classic film noir, offering a nostalgic throwback to the genre’s golden age. The storyline remains fairly intriguing, keeping audiences engaged until the end. Cuba Gooding Jr. delivers a solid performance, though it lacks the energy that made his Jerry Maguire character memorable.
Unfortunately, the supporting cast fails to match Gooding’s level of commitment, delivering performances that are merely adequate. Despite being billed second, Tom Berenger is wasted in the role of detective Clifford Dubose.
The most surprising moment in the movie is the inclusion of a sex scene between Ashley Laurence and Cuba Gooding jr. While not essential to the plot, it serves as a nostalgic nod to a time when movies often incorporated such scenes to add an extra layer of intensity and secure an R-rating. Laurence is fearless as she shows off her well-rounded derriere as well as a nipple piercing which seemingly even seems to catch Gooding Jr. off guard.
Despite its drawbacks, the film manages to maintain a level of intrigue and is buoyed by Gooding’s commendable performance and some memorable moments. However, the mishandled script and visual shortcomings prevent it from soaring to greater heights, contributing to its underwhelming reception at the box office.