The Bone Collector (1999)

The Bone Collector (1999)
  • Time: 118 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Mystery
  • Director: Phillip Noyce
  • Cast: Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Michael Rooker

Rookie cop Amelia Donaghy reluctantly teams with Lincoln Rhyme — formerly the department’s top homicide detective but now paralyzed as a result of a spinal injury — to catch a grisly serial killer dubbed The Bone Collector. The murderer’s special signature is to leave tantalizing clues based on the grim remains of his crimes.


  • “The Bone Collector” is a thriller with brains, and one that is unpredictable. I think the acting is superb: Angelina Jolie is very good as ‘Amelia’ and Denzel Washington is wonderful as always. Altough the ending was weak & very cliché and the script does not deliver its full potential, I recommend this interesting and entertaining mystery. “The Bone Collector” is similar to “Seven” or “The Silence of The Lambs”, but maybe not as good.

  • Universal Studios has been putting out some fine products this year — October Sky, EdTV, Life, The Mummy, Notting Hill, Bowfinger — and they’ve been rewarded with predominantly profitable returns at the box office. Their latest release The Bone Collector, a bracingly suspenseful thriller, is poised to continue the roll.

    There’s a murderer on the loose in New York City. His victims are charioted to hell in a taxicab in which a small toy monkey dangles from a noose hung round the rearview mirror. They’re taken underground, gruesomely murdered and clues of their whereabouts are scattered through the crime scene. The first body, buried under crushed oyster shells, is discovered by Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie), a rookie street cop who tames an oncoming train into submission (more on this image in the coming paragraphs) so as not to disturb the integrity of the crime scene. She’s chastised by Howard Cheney (Michael Rooker), captain of the NYPD’s crime scene unit, but her handling of the evidence crosses her path with that of Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington).

    Lincoln was the star of the crime scene unit — his numerous books are textbook for the up-and-comers — until an accident during an investigation left him almost completely paralyzed. All he is is one finger, shoulders and a head. The next seizure could leave him in a perennial vegetative state and Lincoln isn’t about to let himself go out like that. So he makes a pact with his doctor and good friend to self-terminate or, as Lincoln puts it, “make the final transition.” No sooner is this decision made when he’s made aware of this latest crime.

    When Lincoln and Amelia do finally meet, it’s the literally immovable object confronting the irresistible force. She refuses to be on his impromptu investigative team — forensics isn’t her forte, she points out — and when Lincoln persists in prodding her, she explodes at him: “Do you think your condition entitles you to act this way?” Lincoln is impressed with her fire and by this time, so should you be of Jolie’s. An actress who appears internally ignited, she has an edgy intensity and dangerous sexuality which constantly threaten to surge forth. Every performance she delivers leapfrogs her closer and closer to the precipice of stardom; the upcoming Girl, Interrupted is likely to be the icing on the cake that is The Bone Collector.

    Back to the image of Miss Jolie taming down the train — a perfect visual capture of her unique brew of ferocity and fragility. Lincoln spends the majority of the film pushing Amelia further and further into the extremities — she may hesitate and question her strength, but not only does she push forward and display her fortitude, she also pushes back. It’s a rarity to see this strong a role for a woman (in a genre film, no less) — one who is as active as she is reactive, if not more so — but it makes perfect sense to have the woman as warrior. It makes the odyssey more complex because she’s allowed to be vulnerable and question her fear, something not permitted in our cinematic heroes.

    The Bone Collector also features a rarely seen character in Lincoln. Not since James Stewart in Rear Window has the designated hero been so immobile in a suspenser. Washington has even less to work with than Stewart — Stewart only had one leg in a cast — but he harnesses his talents and somehow conveys an energized stillness. Several scenes show his investigative team watching with bated breath as Lincoln’s thought process goes into motion — it is indeed a pleasure just to watch Washington think.

    Of course, there’s also them there eyes. When Lincoln makes the decision to self-terminate, Washington’s eyes contain both resolution and resignation. Those same eyes smile in Amelia’s presence. Strong romantic frissons abound — she’s attracted to his intellect, he’s attracted to her instincts, both are attracted to the other’s intelligence — and it’s a credit to both players that they craft such eroticism with barely a touch.

    Director Phillip Noyce paces the film tautly — The Bone Collector not only grips you, it asphyxiates you. New York City is blanketed with such subterranean gloom that the city aboveground comes to mirror its own underbelly. Noyce, if you recall, helmed Dead Calm, a thriller with three people in two small boats, and he mined endless reserves of suspense from that suffocated space. He performs the same miracle here — passengers’ mounting panic as they realize that home is not where they’re being taken, Amelia sifting through three different crime scenes, each one somehow more and more dangerous. The darkness may hold diabolical deeds already done, but there’s always the pervasive dread of one more death to come.

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