The Bone Collector

Directed by Phillip Noyce
Starring: Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Michael Rooker, Ed O'Neill.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violent content including grisly images, and for language.

Review by Matt Heffernan
November 7, 1999

Sometimes I am convinced that the function of Hollywood is to find new and exciting ways to recycle old films with an overload of clichés. That motive could be defended for just about all of them. So, let's see how many people they are trying to insult this time.

Denzel Washington plays Lincoln "Link" Rhyme, an NYPD detective who moonlights as a sucessful author, and is only called on for special police work. His old partner, Paulie (Ed O'Neill), sends him down a dark hole, where a big steel beam falls on him, paralyzing him from the shoulders down, with the exception of a single finger. Of course, he stays on the payroll, while bedridden in his apartment under the care of Nurse Thelma (Queen Latifah).

Officer Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie) is a beat cop on her way to a cushy job in youth services. Before she leaves the street, she finds a body in an old railyard, with an apparently staged crime scene constructed around it. Paulie takes her carefully gathered evidence to Lincoln, who is so impressed with her natural ability for forensics, that he insists on having her follow up on the case. From his bed, he instructs her search for evidence against a murderer who surgically removes bones from his victims, and leaves behind little clues that relate to the turn of the century.

At first glance, The Bone Collector may appear to be just another rip-off of Hitchcock's Rear Window (which it certainly is, to a degree). Mostly, it reminds me of the old "Batman" series with good ol' Adam West. Washington's character very much resembles a quadroplegic version of the caped crusader, and Jolie is like his "girl wonder". They both make huge leaps in logic while deciphering the clues left by the murderer. You'd think this was done for camp effect, if it wasn't for the good production values and the tendency of the film to take itself seriously.

One cliché that is even apparent in the trailer is Michael Rooker's belligerent, obstructive cop. Again, we see an attempt to mimic Hitchcock's ability to mislead the audience (as in Psycho), but the device fails when used in such a desperate manner. This is just one example of how the conventions pile on so high, that the film has no room to breathe and create a worthwhile entertainment.

The last thing a film like this needs is comparison to better films. They had to force the Rear Window formula even further by naming Queen Latifah's character after Thelma Ritter, who played the corresponding part in Hitchcock's film. Washington and Jolie are both good actors (I wouldn't necessarily compare them to Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, but I digress) and they certainly have better work ahead of them. Before this film, I saw trailers for Jolie's upcoming Girl, Interrupted and Washington's The Hurricane, which should no doubt be much better.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The Bone Collector (1999)

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The Bone Collector (1999) -- VHS
The Bone Collector (1999) -- DVD
The Bone Collector, a novel by Jeffery Deaver -- Paperback
The Bone Collector, a novel by Jeffery Deaver -- Audio Cassette (read by David McCallum)
The Bone Collector: Original Soundtrack -- Compact Disc Home
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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan