Monday, September 12, 2011

The Boner Collect (tee-hee): "The Bone Collector" (1999)

Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie get caught up in a thriller more complicated than "Seven," and not as good.

Washington is a paralyzed former New York City detective who can only move his head and one index finger. He is confined to a bed after an on the job accident and is cared for by nurse Queen Latifah. Angelina Jolie is a young cop trying to make it in the youth services division in the NYPD. She is running from personal demons of her own, including the suicide of her cop father.

By chance, Jolie is the first on the scene of a gruesome discovery. As we have seen earlier, a wealthy couple is kidnapped by a rogue cabbie. The man's remains are found, and the killer leaves clues to where the woman is. Washington runs a miniature precinct out of his apartment, using his limited physical attributes to investigate and using Jolie to see what he would normally see. The team begins trailing the killer, trying to piece together the clues left at the crime scene. They are stopped at every turn by clicheed angry detective Michael Rooker, who keeps reminding everyone Washington is no longer a cop. After more bodies turn up, the climax involves the deaths of many characters, as the killer takes a roundabout way of trying to off the helpless Washington.

The other murders in here are almost unnecessary since the original intent of the story is to put Washington in danger to begin with. The killer is not easily guessed because the film makers throw in all sorts of red herring suspects, but by the end you probably will not care all that much.

Washington and Jolie are very good here. Jolie gets some background characterization, which helps explain her bitterness, and it takes her a while to warm up to Washington. Washington is also good in a physically limited role, using his facial expressions to relate to the audience. His frequent seizures are convincing. The rest of the cast mostly runs around with their guns drawn, quipping with Washington on down time. A special mention should go to Queen Latifah. I am not her biggest fan, but she won me over as the tough nurse whose primary responsibility is to her patient.

The killings are based on old New York City history, and some of that is interesting. With this serial killer genre of film, the film makers do take logical leaps in trying to solve the crimes that most crime audiences may have a problem swallowing. The crimes are so overcomplicated and really do not make much sense, considering the killer's final motive. Of course, the killer confesses everything in the climax, including why, and I thought this whole sequence was very weak.

Director Noyce does a standard job with his camera, although I liked a lot of the shots of NYC we do not normally see, including the World Trade Center. The music is appropriately suspenseful, as is the cinematography.

In the end, "The Bone Collector" is strictly suspense by committee. The great actors they enlisted almost make up for the shoddy story and "seen it before" feel that you are left with. If anyone else had been cast in this, it would have been a serious flop. As it is, this is a B movie serial killer flick dressed up with onscreen talent.

The film makers failed to back the cast up with something the audience could jump at. (* *) out of five stars.