Review: A stylish, thrilling 'Bone Collector'
November 4, 1999
By Reviewer Paul Clinton
(CNN) -- A violent psychotic is roaming the streets of New York City committing vicious murders and leaving cryptic clues behind. The only things standing between him and his next victim are a quadriplegic ex-criminologist and a rookie female cop who's weary beyond her tender years.
This is "The Bone Collector," a slick thriller starring Denzel Washington as the ex-criminologist and Angelina Jolie as the young cop. Based on the novel of the same name by Jeffrey Deaver, this fast-paced, innovative, jump-in-your-seat-scary thriller will chill you to the bone, largely due to the fact that Jeremy Iacone's script is true to its excellent source.
Washington stars as Lincoln Rhyme, a former forensics expert for the New York City police.
After a tragic work-related accident, his movements are severely limited to a slight turning of his head and the use of just one finger, with which he controls a dizzying array of computers, televisions and other modern technological gizmos that keep him in touch with the world.
However, he's deathly afraid of suffering a stroke and being left alive only as a vegetable, so he's decided to end his life. As the film opens he's convinced his doctor, played by John Benjamin Hickey, to help him. The doctor sets a date for a week later.
A 'Rear Window' pairing
Jolie plays Amelia Donaghy, a policewoman in her 20s seeking a nice quiet desk job. On her last day on the street, she uncovers a horrific crime. Her quick thinking saves the evidence at the scene.
Rhyme's fellow cops force him out of retirement to help solve the baffling case. Intrigued by Donaghy's professional work at the crime scene, he chooses the young policewoman to be his eyes, arms and legs. The fact that she's drop-dead gorgeous doesn't hurt. He may be paralyzed, but he's still a man.
She then finds herself at the center of the terror as Rhyme talks her through one gruesome crime scene after another via a mobile phone. His calm and reassuring voice helps keep her focused and sane as she faces unspeakable horror.
If you're thinking Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 classic thriller "Rear Window," you're on the right track.
Queen Latifah (real name Dana Owens), whose acting career seems to have taken center stage over music for the moment, also carries a significant portion of the film in her role as Rhyme's caregiver, Thelma. Their intimate (by necessity) relationship is completely believable, and her straight-forward performance helps ground the film in reality.
Direction fine, but acting chops carry the day
The direction by Australian native Phillip Noyce is precise, detailed and beautifully crafted. (Look for him in a tiny cameo in the film. He's in a New York City Public Library when Jolie's character goes there for research.)
Noyce is no stranger to suspenseful drama. His 1989 film, "Dead Calm," brought Nicole Kidman to a major audience; he also helmed two Harrison Ford movies, "Patriot Games" in 1992 and "Clear and Present Danger" in 1994.
But it's the acting by Washington and Jolie that makes this a must-see movie.
This is a star-making role for Jolie. She grabs the screen and never lets go as she makes the journey from unsure rookie to self-assured forensic specialist.
Her impressive acting chops have been on display before with the title role in the HBO movie "Gia," in which she portrayed a doomed model who died from AIDS. She won a Golden Globe award for her efforts in that movie, a feat she repeated with another wonderful performance in John Frankenheimer's TNT movie "Wallace," co-starring Gary Sinise. This daughter of actor Jon Voight is going places, and going fast.
As for the Academy Award-winning Washington ("Glory" in 1989), his steely control and expressive eyes nail the role. Few actors could have mastered this role with 93 percent of their acting tool, their body, out of commission, but Denzel does with plenty of talent to spare.
This film is really four movies in one: A wonderful whodunit, a frightening thriller, a love story, and a tale of redemption for both main characters.
"The Bone Collector" is rated R strong violent content including grisly images, and for language. 118 minutes.
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