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"The Bone Collector"

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(Interview with Jeffrey Deaver, author of "The Bone Collector.")

3 stars

A thriller, well done

Review by Carlos deVillalvilla

Denzel Washington

I like thrillers. I like mysteries. I really like Denzel Washington. So, as far as "The Bone Collector" goes, what's not to like?

It's a tad on the predictable side, for one. Washington plays Lincoln Rhyme, the New York Police Department's top forensic investigator. He's written textbooks that are the standard at the academy, as well as best-sellers for the general public. He's decorated, respected and on top of the world - and he loses it all in a moment when his spine is crushed by a falling beam at a crime scene. Now, four years later, he is reduced to a man counting the days to his own demise, able to use only his shoulder and one finger, paralyzed from the neck down. To further complicate matters, he is suceptible to seizures, any one of which could render him a vegetable.

Naturally, a psychotic serial killer comes into the picture. Patrolman Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie, who seems to be appearing in every third movie this year) discovers the first grisly murder, and her quick thinking saves the crime scene from contamination. This gets the attention of her superiors, as well as Rhyme, who is, in a way, looking for a successor, someone to take his place when he dies. Pretty soon, half the forensics lab has moved into Rhyme brownstone, including the reluctant Donaghy who has some pretty serious issues.

There's the usual supporting cast for this sort of movie: The ex-partner who'd walk through Hell for his buddy, the incompetent bureaucrat who sees the murder as an opportunity to advance his own career, the nurse with a maternal aspect a mile wide and teeth and claws to match, a Latino technician who's irreverent as well as being the best there is. Did I miss anyone? Oh yeah, the killer - but you won't. I had him pegged way early on. If you need help, just pick the one guy who has no reason for being in the movie except for being the killer.

Is there a smarter actor in Hollywood than Denzel Washington? Even in the really bad movies he's done (and he's done plenty - just rent "Virtuosity" if you don't believe me), he always elevates the material. I'd see him in a Power Ranger movie - and you know how those kinds of movies fail to float my boat. He does a terrific job here, confined to a bed the entire movie. His Lincoln Rhymes is intelligent, articulate and passionate - qualities that are virtually trademarked by Denzel. He's worth one star for any movie just by appearing in it.

There are some very tense moments in "The Bone Collector," and some great camera work. New York City is an unsung star here, providing some wonderful locations.There is enough viscera to annoy the squeamish, enough plot twists to keep the movie flowing along. On the downside it's cliche and predictble enough to really be annoying. I suspect the filmmakers spent a bit too much time watching "Seven," a movie that has proven annoyingly influential in the thriller business lately. So keep that in mind when you plunk down your seven bucks. A mild thumbs up for this one.

Theater or Video?

This is best seen on a small screen with the lights out - be sure and rent this one when the time comes.

DVD at Amazon.

VHS at Amazon.

2 stars

A waste of good actors

Review by John Orr

Angelina Jolie

The first thing my wife Maria did at the end of the movie "The Bone Collector" was laugh.
Derisively.

That's because Maria had read the novel, by Jeffrey Deaver, had thoroughly enjoyed it, and knew what a great movie it could have been.

That night we went home and watched a tape of "The Silence of the Lambs," which is a thriller as a movie, and is made with style and wit. Jonathan Demme, who directed "Silence," knows how to involve viewers, how to build true suspense, not just scare people for a second or two at a time.

"Bone Collector" director Philip Noyce, on the other hand, knows how to use slamming doors and quickly opening doors to startle viewers. Actually involving viewers or thrilling them? Nah. Not in this unfortunate film.

Unfortunate because if ever a novel had the stuff of becoming a great film thriller, it is "The Bone Collector," which is the finest thriller I've ever read. It's characters have depth and are individually fascinating, and the book piles horrifying revelation upon horrifying revelation until you simply can't put it down ... and when you finally go to sleep, you dream about it.

Writer-director Patricia Rozema recently told the Los Angeles Times that the process of making a book into a movie is "not like making a photocopy of a painting .. When you adapt a book, you're turning an orange into an airplane."

In this case, Noyce took a sleek racing-machine of a novel and turned it into a lemon (which is an insult to lemons everywhere).

What is worse is that Denzel Washington was an excellent Lincoln Rhyme, and Angelina Jolie was a pleasant surprise as Amanda (Sachs in the book, Donaghy in the movie). They, and cinematographer Dean Semler, are why I give this film two stars, instead of the one Maria would award.

But while Noyce and his screenwriter, Jeremy Iacone (who maybe only briefly skimmed the novel on the way to a story meeting, if he read it at all), got some of the basics right -- Lincoln is a brilliant forensics detective who is quadriplegic, trying to find a serial killer -- they missed opportunity after opportunity to make the film interesting and involving, and were ham-fisted when it comes to such things as using plot to develop interesting characters.

Jolie could have been an excellent Amanda. But as written by Iacone she is a stupid Amanda.

The film's explanation of the killer's motivation is so sloppily handled that it is completely understandable that my wife laughed at it.

If Hollywood makes a film of the next Lincoln Rhyme book, "Coffin Dancer," I'd be glad to see Washington and Jolie return, but I hope a better screenwriter and a better director are hired.

Theater or Video?

Read the book instead.


See other information about "The Bone Collector" at Internet Movie Data Base.