Rated R - Running Time: 1:58 - Released 11/5/99

Just when you had run out of reasons for not living in New York City, along comes The Bone Collector. Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie star in this chilling tale about a serial killer who makes the Big Apple his home. It's well-stocked with cruel torture and psychopathic behavior, but also contains good work by its two leads and director Phillip Noyce (Clear And Present Danger). Its plot, by Jeffery Deaver, adapted for the screen by Jeremy Iacone, is tight and intriguing, along the lines of Kiss The Girls or The Silence Of The Lambs.

Washington is Lincoln Rhyme, a locally legendary investigator who was injured on the job 4 years ago and left a paraplegic, but still collects a paycheck because he can still use his mind. Having written several books on how to dissect a crime scene, he lives with his nurse Thelma (Queen Latifah) and uses the most state-of-the-art computer technology available to investigate evidence found at homicides. Jolie is Amelia Donaghy, a street cop who runs across a curious murder scene. A man has been buried near the train tracks with his hand left uncovered, his index finger slashed to the bone and his wife's wedding ring jammed onto it. Nearby, on the track, is a pile of sand, an antique iron bolt, and a few small pieces of paper with cryptic printing on them. Rhyme is called on to investigate the evidence, but because of Dohaghy's ability to protect the scene so well, he insists that she be his assistant on the case.

Since Donaghy's desire is to be assigned with youth services and not as a homicide detective, she is nonplussed at his request. But he convinces her to go along, and they soon learn the chilling truth. All the items found at the site, when examined forensically, point to the date, time, and scene of the killer's next murder. As they work together, with Donaghy acting as Rhyme's eyes, ears, and legs, they uncover a string of murder scenes, each with a carefully prepared collection of symbolic items. Soon they will be able to predict where the murderer will strike next — they hope.

This is characteristically excellent work by Washington, although he is once again playing the same flawless hero he always plays. Taking away his ability to walk is an interesting choice; it forces him to act using only his face, pushing the envelope of his considerable talent. Jolie is quite believable as Donaghy; she goes from being skeptical and unenthusiastic to learning the rewards of solving a complex case. Also present is Ed O'Neill (Married With Children), who provides adequate support as Rhyme's partner and aide, and H.R.H. Latifah shows again that her talent goes beyond singing. On the other hand, Michael Rooker is eminently unconvincing as the villainous Capt. Howard Cheney, who has no reason for being present except to throw in some conflict and manufactured obstacles for Rhyme and Dohaghy to overcome.

Director Noyce makes good use of the seamier side of the city, and of Dean Semler's cinematography (Dances With Wolves), as the team creeps through sewer systems and abandoned slaughterhouses from turn-of-the-century New York. Moreover, Craig Armstrong's beautiful musical score provides a nice counterpoint to the film's graphically disturbing subject matter. The Bone Collector's weakest point is its ending, in which not only is the main conflict stupidly resolved, but a sappy, quasi-romantic denouement is tacked on uncomfortably to an otherwise intelligent story. Still, it's worth a look for the fan of the tough-edged police mystery. ****

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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