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The Bone Collector(1999)
Lincoln Rhyme, a New York City detective specializing in forensics, was once the country's leading criminologist. Following a near-fatal injury in the line of duty, Rhyme is left bed- bound, his arms and legs useless, and with little will to live. Feisty, street-smart policewoman Amelia Donaghy is only in her early twenties but already feels aged beyond her years. On the eve of being transferred to a desk job, her last call as a street cop leads her to a crime scene and the discovery of a gruesomely-mutilated corpse. After taking a look at the physical evidence file and the photos therein, Rhyme is intrigued with the case. On the first day of her new job, Rhyme has Amelia pulled against her wishes and reassigned to assist him on the case. An unlikely pairing at first, Donaghy must become Rhyme's eyes, ears and legs, scouring horrific crime scenes for evidence as they race against the clock to prevent the next hideous act of this brutal killer.
For more about The Bone Collector and the The Bone Collector Blu-ray release, see the The Bone Collector Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on January 10, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writer: Jeremy Iacone
Starring: Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Michael Rooker, Michael McGlone, Luis Guzmán
» See full cast & crew
The Bone Collector Blu-ray Review
You might have a bone to pick with this film.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, January 10, 2013
There are a lot of mysteries that exploit the "locked room" plot device, but there's another "finite set" that a lot of mysteries utilize, something that for want of a better word I'll term the "closed cast". These are mysteries, perhaps best typified by the iconic works of Agatha Christie, where you know going in that the main culprit is a featured cast member and guessing who that might be is a big part of the puzzle. In fact probably the majority of mysteries and thrillers utilize the "closed cast" artifice, even if some are incredibly artful about keeping the "usual suspect" (so to speak) in the background. A perfect case in point is this year's Sherlock Holmes reboot, Elementary, where so far in the series' first season all of the main culprits have turned out to be supporting guest star cast members who in some cases figure relatively feebly into the plot proceedings until their nefarious machinations are uncovered by Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock. A good way to think of this phenomenon is this: what was the last film or television thriller or mystery you saw where the bad guy (and/or gal) was not in some way a featured member of the cast? And so we come to The Bone Collector, a fitfully engaging thriller that posits Denzel Washington as a paralyzed former superstar investigator who utilizes a young rookie played by Angelina Jolie to be his eyes and ears (as well as legs) investigating a series of really brutal murders where the murderer seems to be taunting the police with odd clues left at the various murder sites. The Bone Collector is spooky in a derivative, Silence of the Lambs sort of way, but it becomes so increasingly ludicrous as it goes along, including one of the most patently artificial "reveals" of any relatively contemporary thriller, that any unsettling feeling the film has managed to build up is quickly dispelled in a massive collapse of suspension of disbelief. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the film's "closed cast" gambit, where a comparatively small supporting cast offers lean pickings in terms of trying to figure out if any minor character may be involved in the mayhem.
Author Jeffery Deaver, aside from not knowing how to spell his first name (that's a little inside joke for those of us who spell "Jeffrey" correctly), has had a long and successful career crafting mystery novels. Among Deaver's most memorable characters is the rather oddly named Lincoln Rhyme, a forensic criminologist whose horrifying accident in the bowels of New York's underground maze of sewers and subway lines leaves him a quadriplegic. The Bone Collector introduced Rhyme to reading audiences, and thus far it remains the only Rhyme novel to have been adapted as a film. The film opens with Rhyme (Denzel Washington), upright and walking, getting ready to investigate a crime scene where another policeman has been found shot. That investigation actually leads to Rhyme's accident, and we realize the entire sequence has been a dream—or perhaps a nightmare—from which Rhyme awakens with a start in his impossibly luxurious apartment, relegated to his high tech bed and its accoutrements of devices which help to keep him alive.
The film then seemingly takes a bizarre left turn, albeit an incredibly disturbing one. A well heeled couple gets off of an airplane and discovers that their appointed driver has not arrived to shuttle them back to Manhattan. Instead they take a cab. They both fall asleep on the way, but the wife awakes with a start (this seems to be a recurring motif in The Bone Collector) to discover the cab is in a no man's land underneath freeway overpasses, in an ugly and seemingly abandoned industrial section of the city. She wakes up her husband and the two discover they are prisoners in the cab, with neither the door handles nor the locks operational.
From that unsettling scenario we then move on to meet the second main character of the film, rookie beat cop Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie, trying her very hardest to adopt a tough sounding New Jersey accent). In one of very few neat little surprises scattered throughout the film, director Philip Noyce lets us see Amelia and her boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale getting ready in the morning, and as the camera pans past a rumpled pair of police boots and a gun in a holster, we temporarily assume that they belong to the Cannavale character. Only a quick tracking shot back lets us see that it's actually Amelia who's donning the apparel. Alas, that is one of the few genuine surprises that The Bone Collector will offer throughout its almost two hour running time, and it's a relatively insignificant one.
Amelia takes a call from a frightened child who's found something disturbing, which turns out to be the buried corpse of the man we've seen struggling to escape from the cab earlier in the film. A bizarre series of clues has evidently been left purposefully at the crime scene, and soon the helpless police have enlisted the age of Lincoln Rhyme. Rhyme, who has been considering assisted suicide to put him out of his paralyzed misery, now finds a new purpose in life, and after he finds out that Amelia not only had the presence of mind to take a number of important photographs of the crime scene, she also stopped a train from marauding through the area, he insists that she become his chief protégé in the investigation, despite her complete lack of expertise and in fact her initial refusal to help out.
The rest of the film plays out as a desperate cat and mouse game as the insane killer continues to not only murder people, but to leave tantalizing clues that seem to suggest he has a deep, if twisted, ulterior motive beyond the mere killing. And here's where The Bone Collector goes so seriously off the rails that is almost invites scorn. The interpersonal relationship between Lincoln and Amelia is actually quite well done in the film, but the actual mystery and its denouement are so far fetched that it doesn't just strain credulity, it outright defies it. This goes beyond a mere "closed cast" situation, where an apparently minor cast member turns out to be the culprit, to a frankly unbelievable revelation that is so ridiculous on so many levels that some more cynical viewers may actually be tempted to laugh out loud. Without spoiling too much, the entire plot turns out to hinge on some long ago testimony Rhyme gave as an expert witness in a case, and I would just ask anyone who has ever watched a lawyer show, been to court or read about legal proceedings in any way shape or form this question: if you're testifying in a case, wouldn't you know who the defendant is?
The other major flaw with The Bone Collector is Noyce's annoying quasi-poetic flights of fancy, which include a recurring motif of a peregrine falcon which shows up outside Rhyme's window on occasion. Obviously a symbol for Rhyme's desire to set his spirit free, the trope just becomes laughable after a while. Noyce also has the annoying habit of cutting to supporting characters, like Queen Latifah's medical aide or Ed O'Neill's cop, and having those characters just kind of stare meaningfully into the camera as if we're supposed to intuit all sorts of really important emotional information being imparted.
This is all not to say that there aren't genuine chills in The Bone Collector, for there surely are. But they're chills generated by watching helpless people ensnared in a meaningless series of hideously violent crimes. Audience members may well feel a good bit of empathy, feeling similarly ensnared by a film that is ridiculously overheated and ultimately pointless.
The Bone Collector Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Bone Collector is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios with a VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. Universal catalog releases have typically not met with much favor with Blu-ray fans, but in this instance the reason will probably not be the "usual suspect" of digital noise reduction, as fine grain is quite easily apparent throughout the film. Instead there's kind of a squishy softness in the vast bulk of this presentation, without any real pop and lacking any overwhelming fine detail in all but the most extreme close-ups. Contrast is also problematic, making the film's many dimly lit sequences hard to make out at times. While there's seldom outright crush in this transfer, shadow detail is a recurrent issue, something only exacerbated by the overall murkiness and softness of the presentation. Colors are generally quite robust and accurate looking.
The Bone Collector Blu-ray, Audio Quality
On the other hand, The Bone Collector's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio affords near reference quality fidelity and immersion, with a number of standout surround effects. The first sequence of the film has some great panning effects as Rhyme moves through a busy urban scene, and then just a few moments later there's an overhead sweep of sound that's very impressive as a jet touches down at the airport. The film has a number of rather nuanced foley effects, and if the peregrine falcon's intermittent chirps become actually laughable after a while, there are a number of other great moments to help make up for that aspect. Several of the murder scenes come replete with excellently done sound effects which are impeccably placed throughout the surrounds (one which involves a rush of steam is particularly spectacular). Dialogue is cleanly presented and dynamic range is quite wide.
The Bone Collector Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Bone Collector Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Bone Collector has several elements which work swimmingly, chief among them the excellent interplay between Denzel Washington's Lincoln Rhyme and Angelina Jolie's Amelia Donaghy. Both of the actors are excellent in their roles, even if Angelina struggles a bit too much in her "Meryl Streep Dialect School" performance. It's the mystery where this film just falls to pieces. While the puzzle is fantastic, albeit quite gruesome most of the time, the solution is just flat out silly, a cascading series of inanities that ultimately sinks whatever good will has been engendered thus far in the proceedings. This Blu-ray looks okay, though it's awfully soft a lot of the time, but it sounds fantastic. Fans of the film will probably be generally pleased with this release.
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The Bone Collector Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Bone Collector Blu-ray - October 12, 2012
Universal Studios is bringing director Phillip Noyce's The Bone Collector to Blu-ray. Starring Denzel Washington (John Q), Angelina Jolie (Mr. & Mrs. Smith), and Queen Latifah (Bringing Down the House), the Blu-ray's technical specs include a 2.35:1 aspect ratio ...
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