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Angels in heaven
The Bone Collector, 1999

Pictures from movie

The days when serial killer movies aspired to be Silence Of The Lambs (1990) or Seven (1995) are a distant memory; now there are films out there that would be happy to be compared with Copycat (1995), Kiss The Girls (1997) or The January Man (1989). To wit, The Bone Collector - which takes a couple of appealing stars, a half-way interesting premise and some of the shoddiest plotting ever attempted in a serious major studio picture, and comes up with an overlong, too-often giggly exercise in hunt-the-psycho.

Lincoln Rhyme (Washington), a hotshot New York police forensics expert, is paralysed after a beam falls on him at the scene of a crime. The weekend he finally persuades his doctor friend to assist his suicide when he gets back from holiday on Monday, his old colleagues come to him with a puzzling case. Unlikely cop Amelia Donaghy (Jolie), a child model-turned-beat-pounder, has come across a property developer buried in a railway yard, the flesh of his forefinger skinned away and a turn-of-the-century iron bolt lying significantly nearby in a pile of clues. Despite seizures that might leave him a vegetable, Rhyme gets on the case, manipulating his computer mouse with the forefinger that is his only moving part below the neck, and feeding the timorous Amelia instructions as she combs various subterranean, rat-infested, dripping holes where subsequent victims may or may not be still alive.

All you really need to know about the script, from a novel by Jeffery Deaver, is that it thinks 'Lincoln Rhyme' is a creditable character name, that you'll believe Angelina Jolie in uniform, that soap opera snippets ("My psychiatrist says you're not giving me what I want out of this relationship") are real dramatic depth, that a superfluity of clues makes for a real plot and that lone-chick-exploring-infernal-gloom scenes always work. Only the last proposition, demonstrated with the usual low-wattage torchlight and cascading water sounds, makes sense.

Phillip Noyce's Dead Calm (1988) established him as a master of the exciting thriller, but - too many dumb Hollywood pictures like Patriot Games (1992) and The Saint (1997) later - his credit has come to be a virtual guarantee of ordinariness, and The Bone Collector duly pays off with the the most sick-making, happy families/affirmative values final scene that's come along in many a month. Silly, but not quite demented enough to be much fun.