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The Bone Collector

Stinks -- No Bones About It

By Zarminae Ansari

Staff Writer

Directed by Phillip Noyce

Written by Jeffrey Deaver, Jeremy Iacone

With Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Michael Rooker

It did not really matter that I had my eyes closed half the time: I could have slept through The Bone Collector and still written this review. It seems that the very essence of a thriller -- thrilling unpredictability -- is lost in this and many other recent movies.

Gorgeous Angelina Jolie is Amelia Donaghy, a street cop with a reluctant nose for forensics. Denzel Washington is Lincoln Rhyme, a forensics expert and well-known author. He is paralyzed from the neck down, with only the use of his index finger, which is always on a computer mouse. He uses his sharp mind and state-of-the-art computers to help the cops to solve crimes.

His greatest fear is turning into a vegetable and he wants his friend to help him commit euthanasia -- “make the transition,” as he puts it. Before Lincoln can make this transition, there is the inevitable serial killer he has to help catch. During the process, Lincoln will turn Amelia into a great cop and make her come to terms with her own demons as he leads her through each step of forensics on the crime scenes through the telephone. Queen Latifah has a disappointingly meaningless role as Thelma, Lincoln’s loyal and feisty nurse.

It seems that Bone Collector’s filmmakers took various formulas out of the hat and regurgitated them. You have the initial old hand/novice antagonism. Then the novice begins to respect the old hand and learns the tricks of the trade. Later, both learn an important lesson from each other, thereby saving each other’s life, falling in love, proving their worth, or all of the above.

In what seems to be a remake of Seven, but aspires to be The Silence of the Lambs, these formulas are thrown at the audience in a bored and non-ingenious way. The only ingenious things are new violent crimes, and the grosser details that differentiate this movie from others. When the novelty of that technique wears off, maybe they’ll start making intelligent movies and stop thinking that the audience is made up of morons.

The movie does succeed in tapping into our deepest paranoias and urban legends (for example, being kidnapped by a crazy cab driver). The serial killer leaves forensic evidence: riddles for the police to solve before the next crime. Luckily, Lincoln is an encyclopedia of information about publishing, literature, history, and Manhattan’s urban planning, so he constantly interprets the clues correctly. The movie might have been redeemed if it spent a little more time on this cerebral aspect of crime solving, rather than on close-ups of rats and endless shots in dark places. However, even Denzel Washington fails to make the whole exercise convincing. We are just expected to take his character’s clue-solving prowess at face value and believe that without even looking at a decent number of possibilities he always hits upon the correct one.

The most interesting and nail-biting aspect of the film is the stylistic device of focusing on the masked killer’s eyes and then focusing on almost every potential suspect’s eyes. This pseudo-meaningful device is supposed to confuse the audience into suspecting everyone. It almost works.

In short, Denzel is great. Jolie shines. The movie sucks. And I don’t want to waste my time writing more about it.