Ever since Hannibal Lecter energized the screen in Silence of the Lambs, or perhaps ever since Norman Bates appeared in Psycho, Hollywood has had a morbid fascination with the serial killer. This strange affair has created several great films (such as the above), but most efforts are absolute failures. The Bone Collector, despite a great cast, fails to breathe new life into a failing genre.
Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington) was New York City’s finest forensic investigator. That was until he was paralyzed by a falling beam while investigating a crime scene. Now, four years later, Lincoln can move his head, shoulders, and one finger. Though still on the police roster, it is in name only, as he is confined to his bed, under the care of watchful nurse Thelma (Queen Latifah).
A new serial killer prowls the streets of New York. Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie), a supermodel turned street cop (yep, you read that right…), discovers the ritualized slaying of one of New York’s most prominent businessmen. In response, the cops turn to Lincoln for assistance.
Amazed by Amelia’s spunk, and trusting of her instincts, Lincoln decides to help, on the condition that Amelia act as his eyes and ears as lead investigator. Naturally, this rankles some of the cops, particularly Captain Howard Cheney (Michael Rooker), who, threatened by both Lincoln and Amelia, struggles internally to undermine their work.
The Bone Collector is desperate to be the next Silence of the Lambs, or the next Seven…and that desperation shows. The film is jam-packed with stylistic shots and technical forensic jargon. But in the end, this largely derivative work just doesn’t make sense.
On the plus side, this is truly a stellar cast. Washington has the plum role. He creates a living, three-dimensional character, despite having a limited pallette of movement (in fact, the film overcompensates at the end by giving him a bit too much to do). Angelina Jolie tries to emulate Jodie Foster, as best as she can behind her swollen, bee-stung lips. The amazing thing is she’s remarkably effective, creating a sympathetic, yet tough, character. But the true stars come out on the supporting side, with Queen Latifah and Luis Guzman both delivering stellar performances.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the plot, The Bone Collector isn’t as strong. In fact, the plot is downright pathetic. Adapted from the novel by Jeffrey Deaver, The Bone Collector acts smart, but it’s all a sham. Little in the film flows naturally, rather most events seem sprung from a writer’s desperate mind.
Whereas the forensic work in the movie strives for realism, the serial killer seems like a mad hybrid of The Riddler and a bad James Bond villain. When the film finally gets around to explaining his motivation, you’re apt to be scratching your head. The film takes great pains to make the killer’s identity a secret until the end, but it doesn’t take much work at all to spot the bad guy right off the bat (particularly if you are familiar with the names in the credits).
The Bone Collector possesses a few thrills…mostly of the grisly variety. Both the killings and the forensic work afterwards are sensationalized in their violence and gory details. Though nothing resonates enough to be truly disturbing, there are plenty of scenes to make the squeamish turn their heads.
If serial killer movies are your cup of tea, you will find some things to enjoy in The Bone Collector. But the film isn’t worthy enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Silence of the Lambs, and it will perplex and disappoint many.