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The Bone Collector
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while the thriller elements revolve around a gruesome serial killer, much of the plot revolves around a paralyzed forensics expert who, at the beginning of the film, is planning his assisted suicide with the help of friends. There is a lot of very graphic and grisly violence, with dead bodies aplenty. Characters are shot, stabbed, crushed, bitten, and killed in horrific ways. There is also frequent profanity and some drug references.
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What's the story?
In New York, paralyzed forensics expert Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington) has been confined to bed for years after an accident that crushed his spine, leaving him a quadriplegic; he's planning his "final transition," as fluid build-up in his spine will eventually induce more and more debilitating seizures before leaving him in a vegetative state and eventually killing him. But when a serial killer strikes, Rhyme is asked to help with the case -- and he asks rookie cop Amelia Donaghy (Angela Jolie) to be his representative in the field. Can Rhyme's tenacity and Donaghy's courage stop the killer before he strikes again -- and strikes all too close to home?
Is it any good?
THE BONE COLLECTOR is diverting enough, though it feels like a franchise that never got off the ground. You can sense the studio executives setting things in place for a series of Rhyme/Donaghy films, but that never happened. Still, even as a done-in-one-individual-installment, this is a relatively satisfying thriller elevated by the charm and skill of both Washington and Jolie. Confined to a bed, Washington manages to make the act of thinking dynamic and dramatic; even though she's out in the world, Jolie makes Donaghy's inner life come through.
The killer's identity is neither a great surprise nor especially well set-up; the real pleasure comes in the New York locations and in seeing two actors at the near-top of their game work to make a mid-level thriller far better than it had to be. There's some nice supporting performances -- including the always-reliable Luiz Guzman and Michael Rooker -- and the pacing moves as you'd hope a thriller like this would.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the challenges facing the severely disabled -- as well as the options, and support, they also have available. Talk about the ethics of physician-assisted suicide, as well as the kinds of injuries and hopelessness that would make this an option.
Discuss the popularity of fiction about inventive, diabolical serial killers, in spite of the much more prosaic reality of the phenomenon. What makes these characters such popular villains for Hollywood entertainment?
Families can talk about the popularity of police procedurals and forensics as an engine of suspense and drama; what does this say about our culture's thoughts about law and order?
- In theaters: November 5, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: August 28, 2001
- Cast: Angelina Jolie, Denzel Washington, Michael Rooker
- Director: Phillip Noyce
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violent content including grisly images, and for language.
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