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The Bone Collector (1999)
Do you know what happens when, as an Actor, you do every possible Drama, Thriller and Crime story-line you can get your hands on? You become Denzel, Denzel Washington (SNL reference). Making up the core of Washington’s career. Now, I didn’t say that was a bad thing but hey, it does get old after a while. We get it, you’re a bad ass yanno? However it seemed to be this film that set him up for success in those areas being one of his best. Not Philadelphia, The Pelican Brief or Malcolm X. No no, I much prefer him weak and helpless and still able to overcome the bad guy. Which was exactly the case in this fantastic suspense Thriller with an over abundance of great actors and a story-line that only became more intriguing as developing further into the film.
Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington) is well-known in the city of New York for his Detective work. Having written several investigating books and helping convict a police officer, his downfall came when his environment got the best of him and made him a quadriplegic. Unable to care for himself anymore, his daily tasks were managed by nurse Thelma (Queen Latifah) with help from Richard (Leland Orser) who watched over a deteriorating health, with not much upside in sight. Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie) is obviously a dedicated officer in the field. After leaving her boyfriend’s house and discussing the fact that she wasn’t able to get too committed, she takes a routine call when asked to head up to the tracks where some kids had found something. Upon arriving however finds a hand sticking out of the ground and further digs to discover the rest of the body beneath. She pays the kid (who reported the incident) to retrieve a cheap Polaroid camera as she takes pictures of the crime scene, capturing enough evidence before the weather conditions could damage them. Captain Howard, (Michael Rooker) Detective Kenny (Michael McGlone) and Detective Paulie (Ed O’Neill) arrive next as Amelia is berated for her “shotty” police work by the Captain.
Paulie gets the idea of visiting his old friend Lincoln to perhaps get him to glance at the evidence and share some thoughts on the matter. Interrupted by a seizure, of which had been becoming increasingly worse, Thelma discusses his options on the matter of preventing him from turning into a vegetative state. After some recovery time, Rhyme takes a look through the materials and asks Amelia to be brought in on the case. Hesitant at first yet feeling some sort of obligation, she obliges and a team of officers including tech support (Luis Guzmán) arrive to try and catch the killer before their next deadline. Set for 4pm of that same day. Their later joined by Captain Howard who makes himself seem a bit suspicious but asks to be kept in the loop at all times. Or so to not feel as though he had completely lost all power as Captain. Someone who was no longer in the force was cleaning up and doing what he was unable and why wouldn’t he want to feel like a team player? Going against his wishes, they head off to find the victim and are forced to hear the cries as it seemed that the killer had thought of everything to prevent a rescue.
Acting as Amelia’s mentor, Rhyme guides her into the tunnel to collect evidence. More specifically, for her to cut off the women’s hand, needing to obtain the handcuffs. Proving too much though she leaves in a fluster and her house is later broken into by Detective Kenny who insists on giving the investigation another shot. Meanwhile, another victim is captured and left once again underground with several cuts over his body to attract the nearby rats to feast. Though Rhyme’s body can’t seem to catch up to him as he pushes further, with police later showing the next location suggested by Lincoln. Being far too late, Amelia gathers herself together to walk the perimeter and search for clues. Yet Captain Howard cannot help his lack of instinct as he retakes over the case and confiscates any viable evidence to put back into his possession. Never fear though as Amelia has taken into consideration Howard’s lack thereof abilities and brings Rhyme the last piece of evidence needed to put things together.
A brief connection occurs between the two as another horrific seizure threatens Rhyme with Thelma briefly explains the situation behind what he planned on doing. Intervening once again, Howard soon arrives asking to speak with Rhyme, believing evidence had been stolen. We catch up to our next victims; a grandfather with his granddaughter on their way to see grandma. Soon after departing from the airport a siren beckons the taxi to pull over as the officer approaches the car and once close enough, is pulled in and shot through the chest. Howard leaves as the three use what precious time they have left to determine the last clue. Noticing what appears to be a face, Rhyme determines the symbol concerns a book that Amelia soon pursues. Reaching a bookstore and stumbling across “The Bone Collector,” detailing each murder prior and where the next one would follow. Heading to that site and using the last use of energy to flag down the helicopter and jump in to try to save the two. Who had been tied to the bottom dock with mas amounts of water entering their lungs. Fortunately, they’re able to resuscitate the girl but lose the grandfather.
Though all is not saved yet as Amelia has to keep in mind that a killer is still on the loose and immediately looks for the next clues. Back at Rhyme’s, a late night visitor stops by and we hear Thelma struggling to find (or can assume by this point) that the killer has made his way to the Detective. The clues lead to a train station in which the numbers 78499 are seen, scanning her memory, much like Rhyme, searching for an answer. Recalling it being Lincoln’s old badge number, rushing to his place. Learning from our killer that because of a trial in Syracuse and Lincoln’s testimony, he was put away on account of providing faulty evidence. “Do you know what happens to a cop in prison?” Exclaiming to have been resorted to nothing more than a human toilet, asking what kind of vegetable he would prefer to be turned into. Knob after knob resulting in further excruciating pain for Rhyme. What saved him being his obvious irrefutable zest for life in a struggle in which credit is fully due to Washington. It’s followed by your typical happy ending but not exactly a bad way to end things.
Not too many Actors have the ability to sell their charm, appeal and skill from the neck up though, thanking the casting gods, it seems as though Denzel was a perfect choice. A great voice was a must and who else could be cocky yet depressed about their situation and still be convincing as a bad ass detective? The relationship between Washington and Jolie was nice to watch progress as well. They had chosen her after viewing Gia and it’s no wonder why really. With barely there makeup with a no holds barred attitude; something certainly a rarity with Actresses. The remainder of the cast? Just as exceptionally gifted and able to each be recognized midst the forth coming talent of the leads. Pretty sure the only thing I had seen Latifah in prior to this film was on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; though matching Rhyme’s already sure of behavior with hers made for a subtle but spitfire counter. Luis Guzmán played the funny tech guy while Ed O’Neill was the ever faithful friend to Rhyme. Whose intrigue couldn’t help but overwhelm the Detective’s who had worked alongside Rhyme previously and knew how talented he was. Every time Denzel’s character would begin to discuss the events of the crime you could see all the faces start to turn so as to hear a little bit of the genius going on amongst them. Orser is a barely seen killer with the surprise factor being slight. While Rooker has quite perfected that
cold stare and mean grin, he’s always too obvious. Though they have a great close up of his face in one scene, it was gratifyingly eerie. All in all, not sure that they’re was anything I found wrong with the film. While the ending teetered too close on the verge of being cheesy it at least ended in a sense to imply that the rest of Rhyme’s life wouldn’t be spent alone.