Retro Film Review: The Bone Collector (1999)
By the end of 1990s Hollywood producers were beginning to realise how derivative their serial killer films were and that sooner or later the audience would realise that too. In order to prevent that, they tried very hard to make some of those films at least look fresh and innovative. The Bone Collector, 1999 film directed by Philip Noyce, shows that in some instances they didn't try hard enough.
The protagonist of the film, based on the novel by Jeffery Deaver, is Lincoln Rhyme (played by Denzel Washington), one of the top forensic experts in America whose career ended with accident resulting with debilitating spinal injury. Now he is forced to spend the rest of his days in bed, plagued by seizures that might turn him into vegetable. His thoughts of euthanasia are interrupted by old friend, NYPD Detective Paulie Sellito (played by Ed O'Neill) who requests his expert assistance in solving series of grisly murders. Rhyme agrees and later can't fail to notice the natural talent for forensics in Amelia Donaghy (played by Angelina Jolie), patrolwoman who discovered one of the corpses. Rhyme insists that she becomes part of the investigative team. In the meantime, it becomes apparent that the killer too has a good knowledge of forensic science and many of his murder scenes are carefully staged in order to lead investigators exactly where he wants them.
Jeremy Iacone's script for The Bone Collector follows the usual pattern of Hollywood serial killer films - the psychopathic monster, whose sadistic imagination is matched only by his apparently limitless financial resources, is using the murders in order to play elaborate mind game with frustrated investigator who, apart from investigation, must also fight his personal demons. The film tries to add twist in the form of investigator being quadriplegic and having to rely on a sidekick who just happens to be young attractive woman. Iacone's script reconciles Hollywood looks of that character with the grittiness of her profession in the scene that shows that she used to be a model.
Sadly, this is the only scene in which The Bone Collector shows that its creators paid some attention to viewers' intelligence. The rest of film is familiar mix of clichés and situations that, despite Noyce's direction and all the efforts of capable cast, look utterly predictable. Not much experience is needed for the viewer to determine the identity of the killer early on - appearance and subsequent disappearance of certain character who happens to be played by certain second-tier actor points towards a clear conclusion. This happens despite Noyce's attempts to take away viewer's attention through series of scenes that depict sadistic murders in disturbing level of detail. Also disturbing is the attempt to add extra spice into this story with scenes that suggest that the quadriplegic protagonist might sexually attract his female sidekick. Well-acted and, to a certain degree, well-directed, The Bone Collector, can't overcome limits of its script and it is unlikely to remain in viewers' memory for a long time.
RATING: 4/10 (+)
(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.films.reviews on February 16th 2005)
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Movie URL: https://www.themoviedb.org/movie/9481-the-bone-collector