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BONE COLLECTOR, THE(director: Phillip Noyce; screenwriters: Jeremy Iacone/ based on the book by Jeffery Deaver; cinematographer: Deam Semler; editor: William Hoy; cast: Denzel Washington (Lincoln Rhyme), Angelina Jolie (Amelia Donaghy), Queen Latifah (Thelma), Michael Rooker (Capt. Howard Cheney), Mike McGlone (Det. Kenny Solomon), Luis Guzman (Eddie Ortiz), Leland Orser (Richard Thompson), John Benjamin Hickey (Dr. Barry Lehman), Ed O’Neill (Det. Paulie Sellitto); Runtime: 118; Universal Pictures; 1999)
“It’s a tale that has more holes in it than a New York City junkie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A mild thriller that has the glossy atmospheric look of a riveting horror film but not the impactful story. It’s a formulaic and mindless and gory tale that horror fans have seen before. It’s a tale that has more holes in it than a New York City junkie.

For entertainment value, the movie forces the audience to look at how the police collect gruesome evidence at a crime scene as an inexperienced policewoman. The former model, Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie), assists a quadriplegic author and brilliant forensic expert, Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington), in tracking down a serial killer who leaves arcane clues for them. They are led around to New York City’s underground sites, such as turn-of-the-century slaughterhouses and discarded subway stations. Amelia’s job is to be the first at the crime scene to insure that the evidence isn’t trampled by the incompetent police and the ‘pig’ who is the police captain (Rooker). Amelia talks with Rhyme by cell phone as he leads her through the procedures of collecting the evidence at the crime scene bravely going into the dark passages to locate the victims, where the only light is from her flashlight.

The gimmick is that even though Rhyme can’t get out of bed–he controls his breathing tube, computer and TV from one click of his remote-control mouse. Yet despite his handicap, you know by the conclusion he will get the demented killer by outsmarting him. She is around to do all the physical work at the crime scene and to supply the film with a contrasting character who has a similar emotional problem as he does: both are heroic and have to overcome something in the past that is blocking them — in her case, the memory of her policeman father’s suicide.

There is a twinkling of romance in their eyes, but Rhyme can’t do anything about it because of his physical condition. The climactic romantic scene has Amelia caressing his index finger — which goes for lovemaking in this film. Four years ago, while working a police case, Rhyme became crippled after a beam fell atop him while going down a shaft. Rhyme now suffers from seizures, has a full-time nurse (Latifah) taking care of him and is concerned that any of these seizures could reduce him to a vegetable, in which case he plans to end his life rather than to live that way. We see him in close-up shots showing off his pearly white teeth while profusely smiling, acting petulant, displaying a genius for uncovering clues, while Amelia looks at him with bouts of stubbornness in between bouts of idyllic sensual joy. The best part of the movie was the chemistry between the two. It’s just too bad that the film was so manipulative, dull-witted, spewing so much bad dialogue as easily as steam oozing out of a broken steam pipe.

The first murder victim is Mr. Rubin. His hand was found sticking out from the train tracks by the beat cop, Amelia. She was the first to arrive at the crime scene and did such a marvelous job collecting evidence that Amelia’s reward is to work with the master criminologist Rhyme, who works out of his home. The second victim is Mrs. Rubin, who was found later in a different location scalded to death while in handcuffs.

When Amelia meets Rhyme for the first time, she says in a self-effacing manner that she learned what to do at the crime scene by reading his forensic text while at the Police Academy. Not wanting to be pulled from her new promotion to work with juveniles on a desk job, Amelia tells him she wants out. Rhyme tells her some dribble about destiny, that destiny is what you make it — if it’s a gift you have for forensics, don’t blow it. This dialogue is B-movie material, and that the stars ‘talk this talk’ throughout is a credit to them that they do it with straight faces. Their faces have star quality written all over it and even though this film is absurd, the camera is still very kind to the two of them.

The film builds up to its hokey conclusion by misleading the audience as to who the killer is. Its appeal might be that the film is so absurd, that some might find this in itself appealing.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”