A Murder of Crows (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's notes

The film has a brilliant premise. Cuba Gooding plays a lawyer who is disbarred because of his failure to properly defend a client he knows to be guilty. While he becomes a vegetable working as a fishing guide in Key West, he befriends an old retired fella who has written an interesting book. The old geezer dies with no family while Cuba still has the unpublished murder mystery in his possession. He decides to publish it as his own and gets gets rich and famous ...

... until one day he finds himself in jail for murder. Turns out that the murders described in the book are real, right down to tiny details that the police never released to the press or public.


Now I can't really go too much deeper, because nothing is as it seems, and there are a few twists that you may not see coming.

It was directed by my main man, Rowdy Herrington, the guy who directed Road House. Why would anybody hire a director who specializes in fight scenes to do a movie with no fight scenes at all? For one thing, because he also wrote the script. The story is this: Cuba Gooding and Rowdy go way back. Rowdy gave Gooding the lead in "Gladiator" when the Cubatollah needed a break, before he became a big star in Jerry Maguire. By the time A Murder of Crows was made, Cuba had gone from an unknown to a star, and Rowdy was the one who needed work. Cuba paid back the old debt by producing Rowdy's script with Rowdy directing. I assume Cuba was able to get Showtime to foot a lot of the tab in exchange for Cuba's agreement to star in the film, since he was at that time a huge star by made-for-cable standards.

Unfortunately, the execution of the film isn't as good as the premise. Rowdy had a great idea, but couldn't quite make all the pieces fit sensibly. There are a lot of problems in the details:

  • There is a silly sub-plot with Eric Stoltz as the client Cuba screwed at the beginning of the film. I think something got cut here which would have made it seem more relevant. Or maybe more should have been cut.
  • There is a foolish multi-state chase where the hunted mass murderer (Cuba) never wears a disguise, never even changes his sport coat, and goes straight to his own house in Key West! A master of elusiveness, that lad.
  • While on the lam as a noted mass murderer whose face is on the nightly news every night and on the cover of every newspaper, and still without ever removing the same sport coat and tie, Cuba is able to go everywhere and get everything he needs to research the crimes. He's able to simply sweet talk the phone company into giving him pay phone records, e.g..
  • And there is quite a disappointing and unsatisfying ending, in my opinion. The film begins with him narrating from behind bars, in prison duds. From the start, I figured that the twist would be that he'd get out of the murder rap, but end up in jail for a zillion years anyway - on the book fraud. Not so. There was a much better twist than that, and I liked it a lot. What I didn't like was about the last two minutes, which seemed to give everybody an easy out about everything.

It was shot on location in two picturesque places, New Orleans and Key West, and it looks rich. Best of all, it fooled me on a couple of plot twists. How many films can you say that about? I've seen a lot of theatrical releases not that are not as good as this, so it's worth a look if you like the kind of movie where nothing is as it seems.


This DVD must hold the record for the most special features on a minor movie. The Sterling Milennium Series was the Rolls Royce of the early days of  DVD. They had no titles worth lavishing all this glitz on, but even the major studios learned from these guys. The film itself is a letterboxed 1.85-1, solid but not special, but the DVD extras make up for it:

  • Not one but two commentary tracks. One from the director and one from the actors.
  • A special behind the scenes with the make-up artist. If I tell you why, it'll spoil the movie for you.
  • DVD-ROM special feature: the complete script is typed out, and it is clickable back to the movie. Click on any spot in the script and it goes to that scene!
  • Trivia game
  • Photo gallery


There is some nudity from Ashley Laurence as the publisher. She and Cuba do some brief but spirited sporthumping. She exposes her breasts while Cuba shows his rear. Elsewhere, Ashley exposes a bethonged rear.

There is also some incidental topless nudity from an anonymous extra at Mardi Gras.

Tuna's notes

A Murder of Crows is a made-for-cable crime drama.

Cuba Gooding Jr, plays a highly successful criminal lawyer who is defending a rich psycho against charges related to his having raped, beated and sodomized a lap dancer, after which he strangled her with her own panties. Gooding knows his client should not be out on the streets, but is about to win the case when he discovers a conscience and recuses himself from the case. That results in a mistrial and gets him disbarred. His lawyer father left him a house in the Florida Keys, so he resolves to move there and start a new career as a novelist. The first novel isn't going well, and he is running a fishing guide service to kill time, when he meets an odd old man who doesn't like lawyers. The next day, the man hands him a manuscript that he says nobody knows about, and asks him to read it. It is a brilliant novel about a serial killer who revenges five miscarriages of justice, not by going after the guilty rich creeps, but by doing in their lawyers. Only the first of the five cases was investigated as a homicide, and the others were made to look like accidents.

Gooding loves the novel, but when he tries to return it, is told that the old man has died of a heart attack. Since the old man had told him that he had no heirs, Gooding decides to submit the novel as his own. It is accepted for publication, and is a runaway best seller. Gooding thinks he is in the catbird seat until he is suddenly arrested for murder. Seems the novel wasn't fiction at all, and contained details of the murders that nobody but the killer could have known, and that the police purposely withheld. Gooding escapes, and madly tries to figure out what is happening to him while he is being chased by all the cops in the world.

The film boasts a wonderful cast, including Cuba, Tom Berenger, Eric Stoltz and Marianne Jean-Baptiste.  The basic premise is also wonderful, and could have made for a fantastic film. Unfortunately, it fell short of wonderful in the hands of Rowdy Herrington, who wrote and directed. You may remember that Rowdy also brought us the immortal classic Roadhouse, for which he received his only award nomination, a Razzie. The problem that Herrington failed to solve was how to show the story rather than tell it. We have nearly constant exposition in the way of narration from Cuba Gooding Jr. The script could have avoided that, and created a lot more suspense, by enacting the five murders in flashbacks as Cuba was reading the novel. They could then have shown actual police records describing the same thing, and thus shown us the noose tightening around his neck.

The final product is a pleasant enough diversion with a good cast, but is a major missed opportunity. It could have been so much more.

The Critics Vote ...


The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C, great idea, weaker execution. Many IMDb visitors crow about it, but the critics murdered it.

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