The Bone Collector (1999)

Can a retired detective decipher clues being left by a dangerous serial killer in this cat and mouse game?

Lincoln Rhyme, played by Denzel Washington (Hurricane, Training Day) is a former NYPD detective, skilled in forensic examination of crime scenes and an analytical mind unrivaled in his field. Tragically struck down by an accident, Rhyme is now a bed-bound paraplegic who whiles away his days playing chess against a computer, flirting with his nurse and occasionally passing his opinion to former department colleagues when they stop by to see how he’s doing. Rhyme’s body may be broken but his mind certainly isn’t as he thrives on puzzles and trying to outwit artificial intelligence. The life of Lincoln Rhyme gets a lot more interesting when a rookie cop, Amelia Donaghy, played by Angelina Jolie ( Gia, Maleficent) discovers a mutilated murder victim in an old rail yard. Amelia doesn’t feel like the crime scene is right and Rhyme is asked to consult via video link. Seeing the crime scene for himself, Rhyme concludes that the burial scene has been staged. Being impressed with Amelia’s instincts Lincoln Rhyme teams up with her to try and solve the grisly murder. 

This starts the game of cat and mouse as the mysterious killer knows that he has the attention of Rhyme and his prodigy. As the clues mount up so does the body count as each victim has a piece of bone removed and a scrap of paper is left behind at each crime scene. The killer taunting Rhyme and Amelia, dangling the possibility of saving these victims before a cruel fate awaits them in the form of horrifying deaths, staged for the police to witness. Amelia and Lincoln are fast running out of time before the ultimate victim of the deranged killer is revealed.

Department bureaucracy conspires to stymie the momentum of the case and Rhyme is left to try and piece together the existing clues and discover the shocking truth behind the methods of the killer. Meanwhile, Amelia discovers that Lincoln’s health is failing and that he plans to be euthanized before he is potentially left in a vegetive state. Discovering more information leads Amelia back into the field in the search for more clues, just as Rhyme discovers, too late, the identity of the killer and the dark truth behind their motives. Will Amelia be able to solve the mystery in time to save her mentor or will the ‘Bone Collector” add to their collection?

Brilliantly directed by Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger, The Saint) the story combines suspense and intrigue throughout. The story is excellently formulated from its original source material and transformed into a thrill ride. Direction, script-writing and superb acting performances come together to make The Bone Collector a must-see piece of cinema. Each of the characters in the film are well rounded and the plot is developed organically and without frustrating set-pieces occurring just to move the story in the intended direction. Both Washington and Jolie play their parts excellently with Washington’s stoic portrayal of a man robbed of his body but still with his greatest asset intact and Jolie as a wide-eyed and occasionally naive rookie cop. Even the supporting characters play their parts excellently from Queen Latifah as the good-humored but perennially tired home nurse, charged with looking after Rhyme to the former colleagues of Rhyme who always appear uncomfortable around their fallen friend.

From start to finish The Bone Collector is a dark and compelling story that the viewer will be lost in. As the story develops the tension mounts and trying to guess the killer’s identity is a fruitless task until the final reveal. As Rhyme guides Amelia through the crime scenes they both form a symbolic relationship combining Rhyme’s brilliant mind and Amelia’s curious nature.