A quadriplegic ex-homicide detective and his female partner try to track down a serial killer who is terrorizing New York City.
I wanted to mention first how crazy it is that this film is nearly 20 years old! It was the perfect rainy Sunday afternoon movie for me to absorb myself in and while I made my notes for this review I popped to IMDb to check where the lead actors were in terms of their career while making this film. Denzel Washington already had a string of movies under his belt and Angelina Jolie, a rising star, made this movie pre-Girl Interrupted and Lara Croft Tomb Raider (still the best Lara i.m.o.).
These actors have really made an impression on me for various reasons, with Denzel, its his versatility as an actor. One memorable performance, for me in particular, is his Don Pedro in the Shakesperean inspired Much Ado About Nothing 1993 – his range is remarkable. Angelina Jolie I have always adored, she has transcended her incredible beauty and proved her might as an actor, Changeling, is one performance that has stayed with me – in fact I would say this is my favourite film of hers. After watching many horror/thriller films, this film truly went under the skin for me – one particular scene terrifies me and I can’t watch it again – may be this is because I am a mother, but it was truly the stuff of nightmares.
Now back to The Bone Collector, we start out with Denzil Washington (Lincoln Rhyme) attending a crime scene – ‘NYC Police’ displayed on his jacket. An explosion at the scene has left him now quadriplegic at home on his bed. His nurse Thelma (Queen Latifah), listens in agony as Rhyme discusses assisted suicide with his doctor. Just to note here, I loved Queen Latifah’s performance in this film, she brought such warmth to her character.
Rhyme states “I don’t want to be a vegetable, I want to make the final transition on my own terms“. His seizures can bring on this condition and his limited amount of life now would come to an end. Entirely helpless in his bed, his fingers can move and his head – he can speak, but that’s about it. Thelma and his computer attached to the bed are his lifelines – this is where I thought of comparisons to other physically restricted characters in Rear Window and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.
To add too, the similarities between this film and Dead Calm – that the areas of tension are limited by space, a yacht for Dead Calm and here Rhyme’s body, to me, is the area of tension – this is something I will take away from watching Phillip Noyce’s films.
A reoccurring Falcon on the windowsill gives Rhyme strength – this turns up at significant moments throughout the film – another reminder to have those key identifiers for the audience.
A cab scene shows us a couple being taken against their will and hammering frantically to get out. The cab driver, unseen, has cruelly fixed the window locks to ensure they stay inside.
We are introduced to Angelina Jolie’s character, Amelia Donaghy, starring out the window. With cop clothes strewn over the floor we are under the first impression (and quite wrongly so) that this may be the male character trying to get her back into bed. But its hers – she is also very non-committal in this relationship. We learn later why.
A radio call she responds to leads her to an underpass and the grisly discovery of the male cab victim in some rubble. Plus a deliberate clue as to the next murder, some sand, a bolt and a note.
The police, keen to get this murder solved try to convince Rhyme to work on it in the capacity that he can. He isn’t keen – we hear “You’re the best” to try to convince him – plus gives us the viewer, information on his seniority and respect by police colleagues. But seeing something similar in Amelia, he relents, he wants her involved, he likes her instincts as a cop and is ready to push her beyond her comfort zone. The falcon arrives back on the windowsill – we know he is the best person to solve this crime.
Michael Rooker appears as the Police Chief, what a great actor he is too. I loved Merle, his character in The Walking Dead. At times, I wondered if he was the bad guy – Donaghy mutters herself ‘it may be a cop’ – which seemed a significant moment, or was that just a red herring?
The female cab victim is chained up by the baddie and her fate is in Rhyme’s hands as they frantically try to piece together the clues left at the first scene. Donaghy stands up to Rhyme at their first meeting, but you can see a mutual respect and similarity between these two characters. I found this quite interesting that these two characters were so similar, it felt she was an extension of him, physically. She agrees to be part of the team – and the race is on – till 4pm when the victim will be exterminated.
Rhyme with his brain and Donaghy with her instincts locate the victim, but not quick enough to save her from a steam pipe erupting its contents over her. Donaghy loses her confidence momentarily – but her skill kicks in again as she finds more clues and the investigation continues. Rhyme pushes her to “saw the victims hands off”, she refuses, storms out, therefore quitting the assignment.
Rhyme looks into her background for some clues as to her psychological make-up, her father, another cop committed suicide, she found him. A visit from one of the police colleagues convinces her to return to the job at hand and we see again her non-committal attitude as her year’s residency in her flat looks like she has only just moved in.
We have a very cool walk-through shot of a student bar and the next victim gets in the cab. He is chained up in a similar fashion, but left for the rats to polish off this time.
The strain of solving this crime worries the devoted Thelma, another seizure could be imminent. Donaghy, now with an apology from Rhyme, plus a confidence building talk – heads off to find the next victim.
In the background they are still working at establishing the links between the crimes and the toll on Rhyme’s health busting this crime being paramount. The baddie always seems to be one step ahead and he was in this case as when Donaghy blasts a rat with a gun, she finds the students ravaged body. Plus some more clues.
The next scene is a grandfather and child getting into the cab, the stakes and tension are severely upped, we now a child victim. The baddie gets bolder too, he shoots a police officer who pulls him over.
Back at Rhyme’s they work through the scraps of evidence, they piece together an old book logo. Donaghy goes to the library and discovers the book. The Bone Collector (hello, film title shout-out). I have failed to mention that prior to this a creepy librarian points her in the direction to find the book – another ‘is it him’ moment. Within this book are drawings of all the crimes that have occurred – she views the latest – a drawing of a man and child hanging off a pier into the water.
Donaghy manages to track them down and only the girl can be saved – which leads us into the final part of the film. Talking of which, I worked out who the murderer was at this point – a victim myself of too many horror films.
The showdown, which is in Rhyme’s apartment, (I guess this as the last clue indicated a cop was to be the next victim) – was epic. I really enjoyed the baddie’s performance and his revenge on Rhyme was edge of the seat tension. Rhyme so constricted physically was at the mercy of the baddie, until someone saves the day – you won’t win a gold star to guess who. But, a couple of surprise death’s prior to this eliminated one person from the suspect list and the other death pulling the heart strings.
The final scene was great, he had his life back, his girl by his side and quite a ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ moment at the end, plus a colourful New York Christmas scene. Loved this film!
My Phillip Noyce film reviews