The Bone Collector
Dir: Philip Noyce
Star: Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah
Cert / Year: PG / 1984
Format: DVD R1

The Bone Collector is a serial killer movie following in the wake of Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Copycat, Seven and many others. It is based in New York and the opening shots tell us, as the viewer, Lincoln Rhymes (Denzel Washington) standing within the Police Department as a forensics detective and we are brought up to date via a vivid dream sequence showing a dreadful accident which leaves our hero quadriplegic, but retaining his brilliantly analytical mind.

Enter the doctor. Rhyme is planning his ‘final transition,' his suicide, and is asking his doctor to assist. As well as being brilliant, Lincoln is very angry and frustrated finding it unthinkable that he may end his days in a vegetative state, after having suffered a massive stroke caused by one of his many uncontrollable seizures, brought about by a medical condition which causes his blood pressure, heart rate and temperature to rise unchecked. He feels his life would be even more unbearable and that scares him. We now know this is a man in turmoil with no future and he sees nothing worth living for.

Next, enter the NYPD, his former colleagues who respect his expertise and questioning mind, (that is apart from the captain who is obviously threatened by Lincoln’s intellectual superiority and powers of deduction). His colleagues approach him with a request for him to use his formidable strengths, combined with all the resources available from the crime laboratory, in the hunt for a suspect that is in connection with a particularly gruesome murder discovered by a young cop, Amelia Donaghy, (Angelina Jolie). Amelia has proved her natural leaning towards forensic investigation in Lincoln's eyes by securing the crime scene and recording the evidence, along with the surrounding area on camera. Although she is not a detective, Rhyme asks to see her and after much interchange between them both she agrees, reluctantly, to be his eyes and legs and under his instruction learn how to ‘walk the grid,' make a detailed search of a crime scene. With Lincoln's knowledge of old New York they manage to piece together the clues left by the perpetrator and to relay their findings to the investigators. Thus begins a complex relationship.

Rhymes’ home is fully equipped with all sorts of state of the art computer paraphernalia to aid with his day to day life. When New York's finest arrive to request Lincoln's help in the hunt, even more analysing and search and find equipment arrives along with their specialist operators. His room is transformed in to the nerve centre for the hunt and eventual capture of the serial killer.

As with all thrillers there are a couple of clues, a few dead bodies and then good overcomes evil, which of course happens after the twist in the tail, that of the identity of the murderer (that’s not giving anything away) and Rhymes’ restoration of his will to live. All these aspects are skilfully executed and a tale well told but it is a definite loosely ‘.based on the book ...’ film.

I know and fully appreciate the fact that a book can never be re-created in full on the silver screen, after all there is a set time limit and budget. Put that together with each individuals imagination, which knows no bounds, and there is no way any film can capture and recreate the written word. Even the recent film Lord Of The Rings had sections from the book which were missing from the film, but then it did remain faithful to the spirit of the tale and book one, The Fellowship of the Ring, and ended up being three hours long. The Bone Collector really stood little chance from the onset but then there were major parts which I feel should not have been altered, just to suit and allow the screenwriters use of poetic licence.

Back in the mid ‘90’s I read a novel by Jeffery Deaver entitled ‘The Bone Collector’ which introduced the world to a new breed of Sherlock Holmes in the guise of quadriplegic, forensic criminologist investigator Lincoln Rhyme. Deaver was no stranger to writing crime novels but with the introduction of this particular character a whole new world had been introduced to the reader. Not only was there a fascination to discover how this man was to carry out his investigations while only having the use and movement of one finger, his head and shoulders but also the way in which he was to overcome his debilitating injuries and actually function as a ‘normal’ member of society.

All this could have made a great film. Lots of twists and turns, great characters, excellent story, mystery and intrigue with a truly human element revolving around the main characters Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs (not Donaghy). No, not the sexual undertones portrayed throughout the film, that came later, but the fact that they were both ‘damaged goods’, Lincoln the quadriplegic and Amelia having to contend with ever painful arthritis, which proves to be a constant reminder that she too has a damaged body and one that will become more disabled over the coming years.

Instead we end up watching a much diluted ‘..based on the book by Jeffery Deaver..’ thriller. OK, as a thriller it’s not too bad, I’ve seen a lot worse, but for Deaver readers seeing the transition of their fictional sleuth to the big screen must have come as a disappointment. For instance, who could envisage Amelia Sachs (changed to Amelia Donaghy for some unknown reason) as an ex-child beauty star now a beautiful young woman, who feels that taking up a position within the police force as her father had done before her, would lay the ghost of his suicide to rest? Here is where I lost the plot. Denzel Washington is an acclaimed actor so OK, I could just about reconcile myself to the fact that he was Lincoln Rhyme but a beautiful Amelia with not a hint of the arthritis which plagues her life....? Their relationship, built on two damaged individuals finding each other in such extreme circumstances, gives each of them a reason to go on living and was portrayed as a love interest issue, which it most certainly isn’t at this stage of their relationship.

Another question. What happened to Tom? Why change Tom, Lincoln's full time gay nurse and carer? Always on hand to drag him back fighting from his potentially fatal seizures, his protector and friend, is substituted with a female nurse, Thelma, who I suppose is more politically correct and another female in the film, otherwise there would only have been Angelina Jolie amongst the main players.

Transferring books to film is never an easy task. How many portrayals of Conan Doyles’ Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have been committed to both TV and the silver screen? Watch this film with that in mind and it’s a good thriller but far from the masterpiece of the book at the time of it’s publishing. I would ask that people who have only seen the film go out and buy the book, The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver, and read for themselves the difference, not only in the story but also with the pace of the action and the complexity of it’s characters. Realise the time and research which must have been undertaken by it’s author to produce a book which, in my opinion, ranks above many others within this genre.

I give this film two sets of marks. As a stand alone thriller:

Rating: 2 out of 5

And as a film of the novel a generous 1 for at least keeping some of the original characters and Lincolns’ bed/living room/apartment set is recreated quite well.

Rating: 1 out of 5

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