Denzel Washington as Lincoln Rhyme in The Bone Collector (1999)

Washington Takes on Lincoln

It probably sounds stupid but "The Bone Collector" is a frustrating movie because it is good and not great. This is a movie which comes up with a decent idea, a quadriplegic homicide detective drawn back in to helping solve a case of a sick serial killer who is leaving clues. It also has a good cast with Denzel Washington showing once again why he is one of the great actors of his generation and director Phillip Noyce paces it nicely so that we have this exciting drama played out against a ticking clock. But "The Bone Collector" is in a frustrating way all so average, scenes of action feel like scenes from other movies, visually it feels like so many other movies and with the exception of Washington's character the rest are just your average thriller stereotypes.

4 years after an on the job accident left him paralysed, expert homicide detective Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington - The Preacher's Wife) is preparing to end his life on his terms before one of his frequent seizures leaves him in a vegetative state. But the murder of a man and the kidnap of his wife finds him back in action with the aid of young beat cop Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie - Wanted) who discovered the dead man's body. But Amelia finds it tough, not just working a case where she is sent in first to gruesome crime scenes and to face but after her father committed suicide she fears she will go the same way.

Queen Latifah and Angelina Jolie in The Bone Collector (1999)

The ironic thing about "The Bone Collector" is at its heart the basic storyline is just one of a serial killer who is trying to be clever, leaving little clues for the police to see if they can catch him or stop his next murder. It's not an exactly new idea and nor is the twist which unfortunately I can't explain but whilst making the basic storyline more interesting is still not something overly original. Having said that as serial killer movies go it is nicely put together especially with Lincoln having a beautiful mind when it comes to solving crimes, an encyclopaedic brain of details that he trawls as he tries to solve this crime.

But that brings me to the nice embellishment which makes "The Bone Collector" more than just a routine serial killer movie and that is that Lincoln is a quadriplegic ex-cop who stays in bed and lives life with the aid of gadgets and a nurse. Now the whole paralysed person aspect isn't new and just a year before Christopher Reeve starred as a quadriplegic in a remake of "Rear Window". But it is how it is used which makes it interesting from the whole side of Lincoln wanting to die before a seizure robs him of his last scrap of independence to the technology he uses so that he can still function from his bed. In fact whilst the story has Amelia basically being his legs and entering the depraved world of a serial killer for the first time it is Lincoln in his apartment where the movie works best.

As such "The Bone Collector" is very much a movie which works because of Denzel Washington's performance and for a role which requires only acting through his voice and face it is another brilliant performance. You really get a sense that Lincoln is a walking encyclopaedia of crime and watching how his face changes as he trawls his brain is brilliant but so is the more personal side as you get the attitude of how he feels being stuck in a bed. It is the attitude which makes the casting of Queen Latifah as his nurse Thelma perfect because between them they have this nice banter going on as she humorously does what is best for him when he sarcastically wants something else. It means that whilst Angelina Jolie is solid as young cop Amelia her character other than being attractive is just ordinary.

And that is what is frustrating about "The Bone Collector" because for a movie which has a lot of cleverness about it it still ends up feeling like so many other thrillers. Action, drama and even how the story ends is all quite ordinary and you just feel like a bit more imagination would have made it more than just a good movie. I suppose for me it comes down to atmosphere as whilst there is some there is not enough and so far too often it becomes a thriller about the action rather than a thriller about the sense of mystery.

What this all boils down to is that "The Bone Collector" is a good modern thriller with a lot of cleverness about it and a brilliant performance from Denzel Washington. But at the same time it ends up feeling like so many other thrillers where the focus is on the action rather than the mystery and atmosphere and it makes it at times a little too ordinary. But having said that "The Bone Collector" is the sort of movie which when watched once you would happily watch again because of Denzel Washington and what he brings to the movie.