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Reviewers predictably compare the mystery thriller The Bone Collector to Silence of the Lambs and Seven. I can't make that comparison, because I'm too much of a wuss to watch either of those movies. Which says a lot for The Bone Collector, because I watched it twice and didn't leave the room once. OK, I shut my eyes or turned my head a couple of times, but otherwise I stayed cool. 

Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington), a forensics police officer paralyzed from the neck down, no longer walks the grid at crime scenes, no longer writes manuals outlining cutting edge forensic procedures for rookie cops. He no longer moves his arms or legs or controls his bodily functions. And, as the movie opens, he no longer wishes to live.  

Yet, with only one finger, two shoulders and his brain, he solves crimes, pieces together clues and directs a team of New York's finest in a chess game of good vs. evil. Amelia Donahgy (Angelina Jolie), a feisty cop with her own personal issues demonstrates a rare ability for forensics and finds herself drafted, serving as Rhyme's eyes, ears, nose and legs. The gruesome crime scenes overwhelm her, yet she perseveres. Of course, these two crime fighters use every technological wonder, every available expert to analyze and study and deduce the secrets hidden in each clue. And, yes, one of New York's detectives proves to be "a monument to incompetence." 

This movie, based upon Jeffery Deaver's novel by the same title, gave me what I enjoy most: a carefully constructed puzzle, Denzel Washington, a feisty woman, technology, intellectual problem solving, suspense, grizzly crime scenes and a satisfying ending.  

More importantly the director, Phillip Noyce, (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) focuses on the puzzle and the procedure -- no killers jump out of the bushes, no gratuitously severed limbs. Cameras did not slowly follow, step by step, scenes of torture and mutilation. The gore -- and yes, there was gore -- provided the balance between detached scientific deduction and the horror we should all feel when someone violently takes an innocent's life. 

In the spirit of comparison, I propose The Bone Collector offers traditional Hitchcockian suspense, Sherlock Holmes-style deduction, a dash of the movie Sneakers' technological know-how and camaraderie, with an Ironsides-like main character. Denzel's authoritative yet whiskey-smooth sensual voice more than makes up for Rhyme's quadriplegic state. And the smile, whew, he could blow a fuse with each 100-watt flash. 

Ultimately the story's theme (also reflected in the music) culminates in one underlying message: "Never Give Up." The ending may be a little too storybook, but I like feeling stirred, not shaken, after a traumatic two hours of murder and mayhem. 

Dawn Goldsmith

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