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The Bone Collector

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Bone Collector

Starring: Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie
Director: Phillip Noyce
Rated: R
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: November 1999
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Queen Latifah, Leland Orser, Michael Rooker, Mike McGlone, John Benjamin Hickey, Ed O'Neill

Review by Greg King
3½ stars out of 4

There is something inherently fascinating about serial killers and exploring the pathology behind these psychopaths that continues to intrigue writers and film makers, and, ultimately, audiences. Seven and Silence Of The Lambs are probably the pinnacle of this genre. Based on the novel by Jeffrey Deaver, a best selling author who specialises in thrillers about psychotic killers and forensic evidence, The Bone Collector is a solid and generally well made thriller that follows in their footsteps.

Although not quite in the same league, The Bone Collector still crams in enough creepy moments and shocks to satisfy fans of this sort of stuff. If nothing else, it may scare you away from catching a taxi late at night! However, the film is ultimately let down by a rather disappointing conclusion.

The opening credit sequence immediately recalls Seven, while it also effectively establishes the back-story in much the same fashion employed by Aussie director Jon Hewitt in the recent Redball.

With a deliberate nod in the direction of Rear Window, the film introduces us to an unusual hero in Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington), a once brilliant forensic investigator left a bed-ridden quadriplegic. Much of the novel dealt with Rhyme's depressed nature and his suicidal tendencies, but the film version moves away from this psychologically darker territory. Although physically infirm, Rhyme is asked by a former colleague (Ed O'Neill) to put his skills to use in tracking down a vicious new serial killer. This mysterious killer prowls New York in a taxi cab, executes his victims in rather gruesome fashion, and leaves the scene littered with clues that point towards his next crime.

A crucial element of Rhyme's investigative team is Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie, recently seen in Pushing Tin, etc), a rookie cop who demonstrates a flair for forensic science. She becomes his eyes, ears and legs, gathering evidence which he interprets with the help of some state of the art equipment in his apartment. This unusual pair race against time to uncover the identity of the killer as the body count and the tension slowly mounts.

Ex-patriate director Phillip Noyce makes great mainstream Hollywood action films (Clear And Present Danger, Patriot Games, etc), and he handles this formulaic thriller competently enough. In true Hitchcock fashion, he throws in a few clever, but contrived, red herrings and some artful pieces of misdirection, particularly as the film nears its climax. Like David Fincher in Seven, Noyce deliberately downplays some of the more graphic moments. But he shows us just enough of the sadistic killer's handiwork to let our imaginations switch to overdrive, which adds to the gritty suspense. Much of the film takes place in claustrophobic settings, dirty subterranean tunnels and long abandoned, decrepit buildings, and Dean Semler's suitably dark and gloomy perfectly matches the mood of this chilling thriller.

The role of Rhyme is seemingly tailor made for former Superman star Christopher Reeve, but that is a piece of (type?)casting that is too obvious, even for Hollywood. To his credit, Noyce has gone for something less predictable. Washington brings plenty of dignity and charisma to a role that is physically challenging because of its very nature. Jolie (actor Jon Voight's daughter) has an intelligent, sexy, engaging and appealing screen presence, and her performance here confirms her status as a star of the future. The gradually developing relationship between the pair brings an understated air of sexual tension to proceedings, and the rapport that develops between the pair cries out for a sequel.

Copyright 2000 Greg King

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