Writer-director Rowdy Herrington takes innocence, guilt, ambition, and morality, and twists them into a suspenseful, seductive spiral that can't help but suck you in. When defense attorney Russell Lawson (Cuba Gooding Jr.) realizes his client (Eric Stoltz) is guilty, he turns on him mid-trial--a move that costs him both the case and his career. Disbarred and disheartened, he retreats to Key West, where he meets a peculiar retired teacher named Christopher Marlowe and the film's roller coaster ride begins. In a quick reversal of fortune, Lawson makes an ethical compromise and becomes wildly successful--and then just as suddenly becomes a fugitive from the law, trying to track down a murderer before being tracked down himself. Gooding's constant voice-overs tend to distract from the story rather than add to it; however, his down-home earnestness makes him a good foil for a cranky cop (Tom Berenger) who appears to be more interested in making an arrest than in finding the truth. But then nothing here is what it first appears to be, and although Herrington leaves just enough clues for the astute viewer to pick up on the film's central metaphor, the conclusion still manages to surprise. With such a talented cast and tight writing, it's hard to fathom why A Murder of Crows didn't do better in theaters. At least on video the film, like Lawson, is given a second chance. --Larisa Lomacky Moore

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