Posted: 11/07/1999


The Bone Collector


by Del Harvey

This mystery succeeds thanks to careful attention to detail and a finely plotted script.

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The Bone Collector is one of those thrillers that grabs you and keeps you hanging on until thelast frame. A serial killer stalks New York from the anonymity of a taxi cab. Denzel Washington is a paraplegic forensics expert and Angelina Jolie (Pushing Tin, Playing God) a beat cop who must be his eyes and ears on the street as they track the killer down.

The film begins by revealing the accident that took Washington’s legs from him. He was on duty, investigating the murder of a fellow officer, when a steel beam fell and shattered his spine. In the next scene he is in his home but bedridden, attached to a number of tubes and stabilizing devices, telling his visiting doctor he wants to die on his own terms and wants assistance. The doctor agrees, thus setting up Washington’s despairing character. Then we are taken into the killer’s next assault, a frightening experience as two people returning home from a long trip hop into the next taxi, and soon find themselves screaming and pounding on the windows, begging to be let out as they are taken into a very strange and desolate part of town. Then we are introduced to Angelina Jolie, who discovers a body and proves her natural ability for forensics.

Washington is visited by one of his old partners, played by Ed O’Neill, and shown some crime scene photos. After that Washington insists that the intelligent young lady who handled the first-known crime scene be enlisted for this case, even though she refuses. At first Jolie and Washington butt heads, both of them being strong-willed and unrelenting in their insistence upon being right. Jolie’s inexperience is compensated by her intelligence and natural affinity for the job. Soon she is sent to these crime scenes as Washington’s personal and symbolic representative, finding herself facing some very grisly and frightening situations, but emerging stronger each time.

The Bone Collector is well-crafted, full of some truly scary moments and equal and appropriate amounts of humor. The killer’s identity is kept secret until the end, but the hints are all there. It is very rare to find a story in which the killer’s true identity is not telegraphed from the first fifteen minutes. This one just escapes that fault. Several of the scenes of capture and torture are extremely frightening and not for the faint, although, in all fairness, they were quite tastefully photographed and could have been much more gruesome in another director’s less capable hands.

Most notable among the supporting players are Queen Latifah as Washington’s personal nurse, and Luis Guzman as the expert crime lab researcher who used to be Washington’s right hand man. Michael Rooker is fine as the anal-retentive police captain who has been given Washington’s post at Forensics, but who is filled with anger and frustration and therefore a good suspect.

There are so many good elements to this story that I hestiate to tell much about it. Director Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Dead Calm, Clear and Present Danger) has crafted an excellent thriller. The Bone Collector is definitely one that should be seen on the big screen. And one that will provide many good jumps and starts on video, as well.

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly. He is a devout Bears fan, and therefore deserving of our sympathy.

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