There are good movies that, for whatever reason, don’t make much of an impression on the public when they were released. They either bombed in the theater, or just went straight-to-dvd. This is one of them.
Anyone remember when, just after Jerry Maguire, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Cuba Gooding Jr. seemed poised for A-list Hollywood stardom? Well, for whatever reason he just hasn’t been able to capitalize on that. I think his biggest hit since then has, so far, been Snow Dogs.
This particular gem came out in 1999, I just happened to come across it on cable one day, I don’t recall ever hearing about it before, so I don’t know if it even was released in the theaters. But I think it’s a shame that it didn’t get more recognition, because this is a very clever suspense/drama.
Cuba plays Lawson Russell, a criminal defense attorney in New Orleans. In the opening of the film, we see that he is in court, defending a spoiled rich kid, Thurman (played by Eric Stoltz), who is on trial for the rape and murder of a young woman. It’s going well for him, and looks like he’ll win the case, but when he realizes that Thurman is, in fact, guilty, Lawson’s conscious gets to him, leading him to purposely sabotage the case, resulting in a mistrial.
Because of his actions (and Thurman’s family’s influence), Lawson is disbarred. He moves to Florida to start over, trying to write a book about his experience, while renting out his boat for fishing. He meets an old man who, when he finds out that Lawson is a writer, asks him to read a manuscript that he has written, called “A Murder of Crows” (“murder” being the name for a group of crows, like a group of seagulls is called a “flock”). The book is about a man who stalks and kills 5 criminal defense lawyers. After reading it, Lawson goes to the hotel that the man was staying at, but meets a police officer who is on the scene, and tells him that the old man died that afternoon.
Lawson decides to take the old man’s manuscript, put his own name on it, and send it to some book publishers. One publisher buys it, publishes it, & it becomes a huge hit. Lawson is now a minor celebrity, doing book signings across the country, and begins having an affair with his publisher, Janine (played by the very sexy Ashley Laurence, whom I first saw in the original Hellraiser films).
Then, a police detective played by Tom Berenger arrives @ Lawson’s home to bring him in for questioning. He reveals that he had recently received an anonymous copy of the book in the mail, and he read it, and it turns out that all of the murders written about in the book are true. 5 criminal defense lawyers have really been murdered, in exactly the ways described in the book, which includes info that hadn’t been released as to the public, and therefor only the killer could know.
So now Lawson is stuck. The only way to prove he didn’t commit the murders is to admit that he didn’t really write the book, and tell them who really did. Except when he goes to track down info about the old man, he finds out that there’s no proof of the old man ever being in Florida or dying, nor of his existence @ all. And now some evidence of the murders has been found in Lawson’s home, and the detective wants to arrest him, so Lawson goes on the run, trying to find out what the heck is going on. He suspects he’s been set-up by Thurman, whom he found out once had an affair with Janine. But the truth turns out to be much stranger than fiction. I won’t spoil the twist ending, but it’s very clever.
I highly recommend this film. Two Thumbs Up!