THE BONE COLLECTOR
The film was greeted with a number of critical knee-jerk reactions grisly and unpleasant and gaping plot holes being the two most recurrent. Neither of which are true. (There are times you get the impression that critics copy what one another say). TVs Millennium was frequently far more grisly and went into a far darker territory than anything here. (When someone knowingly goes into a forensic psychology thriller then comes out accusing it of being grisly, it is like criticising a Disney film of being cute or an X-rated film of being explicit it kind of comes with the territory). One looked carefully for plot holes but failed to find any gaping gaps apart from the slightly far-fetched climactic revelation of the killers identity (that someone could get a job so close to the hero and would weave such an elaborate pattern of killings for revenges sake). Most of the feats of superhuman ingenuity displayed by the criminal geniuses in the post-Silence of the Lambs thrillers have required far greater stretches of believability than this.
The Bone Collectors greatest problem is not plot holes but rather that its plot is not terribly interesting. The film is directed by Australian Phillip Noyce. Noyce has directed a number of high-profile A-budget thrillers after emerging onto the international stage with Dead Calm (1989). His films tend to fall between the good Dead Calm, Clear and Present Danger (1994) and the slickly packaged but uninspired Patriot Games (1992), Sliver (1993), The Saint (1997), Salt (2010) and The Giver (2014). Certainly, immediately subsequent to The Bone Collector, Noyce started to prove himself with Rabbit Proof Fence (2001) and The Quiet American (2002). The strength of the abovementioned forensic psychology thrillers is their ability to twist an audience around and dazzle with the revelations of psychological patterns and meaning. However, unlike even lesser forensic psychology thrillers such as Kiss the Girls, Philip Noyce never keeps an audience pinned to the unfolding plot revelations. The twists and unfurling clues here hold no suspense, no collective sighs as one suddenly sees the pattern coming together. Even the climax seems a perfunctory affair (although it does inventively show that being a quadriplegic doesnt make one entirely helpless against an attacker).
If The Bone Collector had relied on the thriller aspect alone, it would have been dull. On the other hand, what does make it work is the novelty of having the detective hero helpless from the neck down and the central relationship between Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. It is during Angelinas ventures down into the killers lairs guided by Denzels voice that Noyce crafts the film at its most tensely suspenseful. Noyce also has a good cast at hand. Denzel Washington, an actor who can command the screen without seeming to be exerting any effort, is on fine form. Noyce also has good actors such as Michael Rooker, Queen Latifah and Luis Guzman, even Ed ONeill (doing a good job of shaking his typecasting as a live-action version of Homer Simpson from tvs Married with Children [1987-97]) in the supporting parts, which help make the scenes of police in-politicking work well. The only weak link is Angelina Jolie. In her early films Jolie seen here shortly before being propelled to A-list superstardom in Girl, Interrupted (1999) later that same year seemed to have all the distinction of a mannequin whenever she appears on screen. Even her looks seem to vanish into a routine blankness all that one remembers about her is her collagen-injected lips. She survives here thanks to a strong and well-written female part but you never could call it a well acted part.
The one other plus about The Bone Collector is Dean Cundeys photography. Cundey transforms New York into a haunted otherworld. It is a film filled with frequently breathtaking shots aerial shots cruising across the rooftops of skyscrapers, zooms that leap backwards from the site of a murder to cross half the city and pull back in through Denzel Washingtons apartment window in an instant, shots where moody skies have had the colour damped down so that the city looks like it is filled with perpetually brooding storm clouds. Although there does seem something odd when you get a vision that plays so much on being New York City but is directed and photographed by two Australians (Noyce and Semler) and shot on location in Montreal.