Bones [2001]

Released in late 1999, The Bone Collector was originally promoted as a thriller in the tradition of The Silence of the Lambs and Seven, suggesting that it would earn a place among those earlier, better films. Nice try, but no cigar. The Bone Collector settles instead for mere competence and the modest rewards of a well-handled formula. With a terrific cast at his service, director Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm, Patriot Games) turns the pulpy indulgence of Jeffery Deaver's novel into a slick potboiler that is grisly fun only if you don't pick it apart. Noyce expertly builds palpable tension around a series of gruesome murders that lead us into the darkest nooks of New York City. Now a bedridden quadriplegic prone to life-threatening seizures and suicidal depression, forensics detective Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington) gets a new lease on life with a sharp young beat cop (Angelina Jolie) who's a wizard at analyzing crime scenes. She does field work while he deciphers clues from his high-tech Manhattan loft, and as they narrow the search their lives are increasingly endangered. As this formulaic plot grows moldy, Noyce resorts to narrative shortcuts, using perfunctory scenes to manipulate the viewer and taking morbid pleasure in his revelation of the murder scenes. And yet it all works, to a point, and the cast (including Queen Latifah and Luiz Guzmán) is much better than the material. If you're looking for a few good thrills, The Bone Collector is a pretty safe bet. --Jeff Shannon

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