Movie Magazine International

The Bone Collector

USA - 1999

Movie Review By Monica Sullivan

Lincoln Rhyme is dying. He's hooked up to a respirator, carefully attended by Thelma, his health provider, and he doesn't want to turn into a vegetable after a seizure. He asks a doctor friend to assist at his suicide next week. Reluctantly, the friend agrees and Lincoln tries to return to his current life's work, dying in peace. Lincoln's previous life's work was as a brilliant forensic pathologist and danged if the New York Police Department won't let him forget it. When a psychotic serial killer kidnaps one of the richest and most powerful men in the world and his wife in a New York City taxicab, Detective Paulie Sellitto is at Lincoln's bedside in a flash~ grilling Lincoln for his expert opinions on the case. Even one of Lincoln's seizures doesn't deter Sellitto, and, eventually, Lincoln's fading grip on life is strengthened when his quiet apartment is turned into a bustling extension of police headquarters.

Playing an immobile guy with a formidable brain and endless curiosity is the sort of dream role reserved for Oscar-winning actors like Jimmy Stewart in "Rear Window" or Denzel Washington in his latest film, "The Bone Collector." Tough in every respect, except for his plan to check out of life, Washington's compelling performance as Lincoln Rhyme keeps you riveted to the story even when other aspects of this Philip Noyce film cave in on you. Australian director Noyce, who began his career in a big way with 1978's "Newsfront" has had an up-and-down career ever since, with successes like "Heatwave," "Dead Calm" and "Patriot Games," mediocrities like "Blind Fury" and "Clear and Present Danger" and duds like "Shadow of the Peacock" "Sliver" and the worst "Saint" movie ever made. Noyce reunites with his "Dead Calm" cinematographer Dean Semler to create an atmosphere of toxic claustrophobia occasionally relieved by dread at its clammiest and terror most nauseating.

Lincoln works in tandem with rookie cop Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie in yet another knockout performance), a rookie cop who preserves a crime scene by stopping a train in its tracks. Lincoln appreciates the uninterpretive freshness of her observations, as well as the lengths Amelia will go to protect uncontaminated evidence. She, on the other hand, doesn't appreciate her own skills and she resents Lincoln for sending her into subway tunnels littered with rotting flesh and man-eating rats. Whenever the story focuses on Lincoln's apartment and Amelia's investigation, "The Bone Collector" works so well you wish the pair could be re-teamed in a sequel with an equally absorbing narrative. But with the exception of Queen Latifah as the wry Thelma and Ed O'Neill as Sellitto, no one else in the cast is anywhere near as good as the two leads.

The psycho killer is eyeball-rolling-over-the-top, and even worse is Michael Rooker as Captain Howard Cheney, an over-obvious red herring. Rooker, who may have been hopelessly typecast as Henry the serial killer, isn't helped by dialogue in which he urges officers to arrest Amelia right after she's saved the life of a drowning little girl. But Washington and Jolie are such a magical sweet, sour, smooth and gritty team that "The Bone Collector" works in most of the right places.

© 1999 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 11/3/99

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