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The Bone Collector (1999)
Rated R

Starring: Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, and Queen Latifah

Rating:
***
out of
*****

Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington) was a New York cop until a tragic accident paralyzed him from the shoulders down. Aside from the index finger on his left hand, he's completely motionless. Before the accident, he was one of New York's finest forensic experts and, on the side, a best-selling author. Now, trapped in a bed in his plush apartment and cared for by Thelma (Queen Latifah), a good-hearted nurse who won't let anything happen to him, he's suffering a series of seizures that threaten to turn him into a vegetable. He asks a friend to help him make the "final transition" on his own terms by assisting in his suicide. Things do not look good for Mr. Rhyme.

That is, until a young patrol officer named Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie) responds to a call involving a strange homicide. Using techniques that Rhyme wrote about in a police academy manual, she succeeds in saving a large quantity of evidence from destruction due to an oncoming rain storm. Recognizing the potential to put Donaghy's smarts together with Rhyme's intellect, Detective Paulie Sellitto (Ed O'Neill) brings the evidence and Donaghy to Rhyme and asks for his help. Donaghy, who's just transferred into a different division, resists the request to work with Rhyme. Rhyme, noting her forensic talents, wants to work with her and begins pulling her psychological strings to get what he wants. The case they're to work on seems to be geared towards their special expertise and the killer is leaving some very odd clues for them to follow.

This movie seems geared for failure. It's the usual "two opposites repel and then attract" formula that so many police dramas use to string audiences along until the inevitable "the duo is backed into a corner and must unite" scene. The Bone Collector doesn't quite follow that route, at least not initially. The movie sets up the action fairly well, stumbling through a few awkward moments but it generally does an OK job of letting us see why the main characters act as they do in certain situations. (Although Lincoln Rhyme always seems like one of those movie characters that no one will ever get the upper hand on, no matter what is stacked against him.) The serial killer that the cops are pitted against pales in comparison to those in such films as Seven or Silence of the Lambs. He's got absolutely no personality and, even though not every movie needs a one-liner spouting villain, things get a little drab in the pursuit of the generic, but somewhat inventive, ski-mask wearing killer that's served up here. It's mainly the likeability of Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie that buys the film its defense against the formulaic plot and less-than-thrilling pacing.

I guess it's that likeability and the chemistry of the characters that sold me on this movie in spite of the fact that it's really nothing special. It's a good night's entertainment, but is instantly forgettable. If you're a Denzel Washington or Angelina Jolie fan, add a star to the three I've given the film. If you don't like either one, subtract one. They're the foundation that the film is built on and, as a result, the film lives or dies by your perception of their acting skills.

Trivia: Director Phillip Noyce has a cameo as a man browsing through books in the bookstore that Angelina Jolie enters. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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