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The Bone Collector

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The Bone Collector
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPhillip Noyce
Written byJeremy Iacone
Based onThe Bone Collector
by Jeffery Deaver
Produced byMartin Bregman
Michael Bregman
Louis A. Stroller
CinematographyDean Semler
Edited byWilliam Hoy
Music byCraig Armstrong
Distributed by
Release date
  • November 5, 1999 (1999-11-05)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$48 million[1]
Box office$151.5 million[1]

The Bone Collector is a 1999 American crime thriller film[2] directed by Phillip Noyce and starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. The film is based on the 1997 crime novel of the same name written by Jeffery Deaver, and focuses on a quadriplegic homicide detective and a newly recruited patrol officer investigating a series of murders in New York City.


In 1998 New York City, forensics expert Lincoln Rhyme is bed-bound after an accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Amelia Donaghy, a newly recruited patrol officer, discovers a mutilated corpse buried at a Civil War-era railroad bed. Rhyme is directing her through a free video/audio feed sent from Amelia to him in his bedroom. Due to clue-like objects found at the crime scene, Rhyme concludes that the scene was staged and subsequently teams up with an initially hesitant Amelia, impressed by her natural forensic instincts.

The killer poses as a taxi driver and, before Rhyme and Amelia met, abducts married couple Alan and Lindsay Rubin. Alan is the body discovered by Amelia at the railroad station, while Lindsay is revealed to be alive and tied up at a steam junction. Using the clues found at the railroad bed, including a torn piece of scrap paper, Rhyme successfully tracks the whereabouts of Lindsay. The detectives and Amelia arrive just after she is scalded to death by an open steam pipe. Amelia finds a piece of Lindsay's bone by her body and another scrap of paper. Rhyme instructs Amelia to sever Lindsay's hands in order to obtain evidence, but she refuses and storms off.

The killer abducts an NYU student, who is taken to a derelict slaughterhouse, tied to a pole, and left with an open wound that attracts nearby rats. Amelia and Rhyme, again using the clues left by the killer at the scene of the previous murder, find the victim's body mutilated by rats. Amelia finds another scrap of paper and a piece of bone. The pressure of the tense investigation and bureaucratic challenges to Amelia and Rhyme's involvement in the case begin to have serious impacts on Rhyme's health and stability. Thelma, Rhyme's carer and nurse, reveals to Amelia his plans to euthanize himself out of fear of seizures that could leave him in a vegetative state.

After piecing together the message the killer was sending using the paper scraps, Amelia and Rhyme are led to an old crime novel called The Bone Collector, which details crimes the killer is replicating. The fictional outline leads them to the location of the next victims, a grandfather and granddaughter who have been tied to a pier during a rise in tide. The paramedics successfully resuscitate the young girl, but the grandfather dies. At the scene, Amelia finds another piece of bone, part of an old police badge, and a subway map. These clues together with the asbestos left by the killer at the scene of Lindsay's death lead Amelia to an abandoned subway station, where numbers on the side of a carriage have been tampered with to spell out Rhyme's police badge number.

The killer arrives at Rhyme's house and kills both Thelma and Police Captain Howard Cheney. The killer is revealed to be Richard Thompson, the medical technician in charge of Rhyme's medical equipment. Richard's real name is Marcus Andrews, a former forensics expert convicted after Rhyme wrote an article exposing him for planting evidence that resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of six innocent people, one of whom hanged himself. Maintaining his judgment as correct, Marcus blames Rhyme for his imprisonment and the abuse he endured during incarceration, and has schemed to humiliate Rhyme by testing his abilities in a game of wits before killing him. Rhyme manages to crush Marcus' hand in his medical bed, resulting in a struggle in which he manages to harm Marcus severely by biting his neck. Unable to move, Rhyme is about to be stabbed to death when Amelia arrives and shoots Marcus dead.

The following Christmas, Rhyme, having abandoned his plans to commit suicide, meets his sister and niece coming to visit him along with Amelia and his other colleagues.




The project originated when producer Martin Bregman acquired the film rights to the Jeffery Deaver novel of the same name,[3] Phillip Noyce was brought on to direct.[4] Jeremy Iacone penned the screenplay adaptation; while staying faithful to Deaver's source material, Iacone condensed the plot "down to three murders" and honed in on the dynamic between the lead characters.[5] The script would undergo further work when Christopher Crowe was brought on to do a screenplay polish.[6]

Universal Pictures sold half of the distribution rights to Columbia Pictures, as the studio was worried about making its money back. Noyce made a deal with the studio that if the production went over budget, he'd pay the difference out of his own pocket, and if it came in under budget, then he would get to keep half.[5][7][8]


When the script was being written, the role of Lincoln Rhyme was written with Al Pacino in mind, since Bregman had served as producer on Pacino's previous films like Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface, and Carlito's Way.[5] However, Pacino was unavailable due to him filming The Insider. Harrison Ford and Sean Connery were also suggested by the studio, but Noyce cast Denzel Washington in the lead role.[5]

In preparation for his role as a quadriplegic, Washington met with other quadriplegics including Christopher Reeve, as well as a police officer paralyzed by a gunshot wound.[9][10]

For the role of Amelia Donaghy, both Demi Moore and Nicole Kidman were considered for the role before Angelina Jolie was cast.[11] Other principal roles would be played by Michael Rooker, Queen Latifah, and Ed O'Neill.[12]


Aside from exterior shots filmed on location in Manhattan, New York City, filming primarily took place in Montreal.[5]



The film was originally slated for release on October 1, but was moved to November 5, 1999,[13] receiving mixed reviews, but earning $151.5 million against a budget of $48 million.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, The Bone Collector holds an approval rating of 28% based on 86 reviews, with an average rating of 4.2/10. The site's critics consensus states: "A talented cast is wasted on a bland attempt at a suspenseful, serial killer flick."[14] Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 45 out of 100 based on 33 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[15] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[16]

Eric S. Arnold of Newsweek gives a mainly positive review, stating that "The Bone Collector may be formulaic—but many good recipes are."[17] William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer describes the film as having "the characteristics of a bad slasher movie" in a mainly negative review, calling the plot "ultimately preposterous".[18] Multiple critics called out the improbabilities and cliches of the script and negatively compared the film to similar crime thrillers such as Seven and The Silence of the Lambs, but said Washington and Jolie's performances were just enough to make the film engrossing.[19][20][21][22] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the film's acting, but deplored the plot's "utter absurdity", writing: "The movie is a peculiar experience to sit through, because the quality of the acting is so much better than the material deserves."[23] Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post wrote, "As for the mystery that these forays into the shocking are meant to penetrate, it's probably the least interesting thing in the movie."[22] He concluded, "Yet for all the carping one can do, the following is indisputably true: At the narrative level, 'The Bone Collector' is extremely gripping. You may have as much fun tearing it apart in its aftermath as you do watching it, but the fun is still genuine."[22]

Potential sequel[edit]

In June 2023, it was reported that a sequel was in the works, with Washington and Jolie reprising their roles,[24][25] according to Deaver, the 11th novel in the book series, "The Skin Collector", is more of a direct sequel to the first book.[26]

TV series adaptation[edit]

On January 17, 2019, it was announced that NBC had given the production a pilot order under the name Lincoln based on The Bone Collector novel.[27] Sony Pictures Television and Universal Television were shopping the show to the American broadcast networks. VJ Boyd and Mark Bianculli would write the series and also serve as executive producer, and Seth Gordon would direct the potential pilot. In May 2019, NBC picked up the series, which would be titled Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector, and premiere January 10, 2020.[28] The pilot episode was released early online on January 1, 2020, ahead of its network debut on January 10. The series was cancelled after one season, on June 10, 2020.[29]

Noyce briefly consulted on the project, but he declined an offer to direct the first episode: "I spoke to the makers and I said, "Okay, I'll make the pilot, but this is what I’d be looking to do". "They made their pilot, but they made the most basic mistakes in their casting". "They [also] tried to lighten it, which was not the way to exploit that material".[5]


  1. ^ a b c "The Bone Collector (1999) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  2. ^ Dönmez-Colin, Gönül. "The Bone Collector". AllMovie. Archived from the original on January 29, 2021. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  3. ^ Fleming, Michael (January 8, 1997). "Bregman in MGM/UA pact". Variety. Archived from the original on July 30, 2023. Retrieved July 30, 2023.
  4. ^ "Interview: Phillip Noyce – Part Two". wearecults.rocks. January 3, 2018. Archived from the original on September 26, 2023. Retrieved September 26, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Weiss, Joshua (June 16, 2023). "The Bone Collector Director, Writer and DP look back on the 1999 Serial Killer Thriller". www.syfy.com. Archived from the original on July 30, 2023. Retrieved July 30, 2023.
  6. ^ Carver, Benedict (March 17, 1998). "Noyce set to helm 'Bone'". Variety. Archived from the original on July 30, 2023. Retrieved July 30, 2023.
  7. ^ "Sony nabs o'seas right to U's 'Bone'". Variety. February 15, 1999. Archived from the original on September 27, 2023. Retrieved September 26, 2023.
  8. ^ "Sony and U pact on 'Erin'". Variety. April 9, 1999. Archived from the original on September 26, 2023. Retrieved September 26, 2023.
  9. ^ "The Bone Collector". EW.com. August 13, 1999. Archived from the original on June 17, 2021. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  10. ^ "Phillip Noyce "The Bone Collector" 8/28/99 - Bobbie Wygant Archive". www.youtube.com. March 11, 2022. Archived from the original on May 8, 2024. Retrieved September 26, 2023.
  11. ^ "Collector' acquires Jolie". Variety. June 4, 1998. Archived from the original on November 2, 2023. Retrieved July 30, 2023.
  12. ^ "Rooker inks for 'Bone'". Variety. September 15, 1998. Archived from the original on October 29, 2023. Retrieved July 30, 2023.
  13. ^ "Inside Moves". Variety. August 20, 1999. Archived from the original on September 26, 2023. Retrieved September 26, 2023.
  14. ^ "The Bone Collector Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on December 25, 2019. Retrieved July 20, 2008.
  15. ^ "Bone Collector, The (1999): Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on January 17, 2010. Retrieved July 20, 2008.
  16. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  17. ^ Arnold, Eric S. (October 4, 1999). "The Bone Collector". Newsweek. MSNBC. Archived from the original on February 8, 2008. Retrieved July 20, 2008.
  18. ^ Arnold, William (November 5, 1999). "Brutal 'Bone Collector' wallows in gruesome absurdity". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  19. ^ Stein, Ruthe (November 5, 1999). "Brittle Logic Trips Up 'Bone Collector' / Even immobile, Washington shines in spineless thriller". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on September 28, 2020. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  20. ^ Morris, Wesley (November 5, 1999). "Bone Collector' grinds out clich*s". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on December 7, 2017. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  21. ^ Savlov, Marc (November 5, 1999). "The Bone Collector". The Austin Chronicle. Archived from the original on May 22, 2021. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  22. ^ a b c Hunter, Stephen (November 5, 1999). "Grafted 'Bone': Pretty Good Film Strains to Replicate a Great One". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 5, 1999). "The Bone Collector movie review (1999)". RogerEbert.com. Archived from the original on April 14, 2019. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  24. ^ "Exclusive: The Bone Collector 2 With Denzel Washington And Angelina Jolie In The Works". www.giantfreakinrobot.com. June 15, 2023. Archived from the original on December 29, 2023. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  25. ^ "Denzel Washington's 'Bone Collector' Could Get a Sequel". eurweb.com. June 22, 2023. Archived from the original on December 29, 2023. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  26. ^ "Bone Collector' Author Jeffery Deaver on New Sequel, James Bond and the State of Journalism". www.thewrap.com. May 16, 2014. Archived from the original on December 29, 2023. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  27. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (January 17, 2019). "NBC Orders 'Lincoln' Drama Pilot Based On 'The Bone Collector' Books". Deadline. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  28. ^ Petski, Denise (November 8, 2019). "NBC Midseason Drama 'Lincoln' Gets New Title". Deadline. Archived from the original on November 9, 2019. Retrieved November 8, 2019.
  29. ^ Roots, Kimberly (June 10, 2020). "Lincoln Rhyme Cancelled at NBC". TVLine. Archived from the original on June 10, 2020. Retrieved June 10, 2020.

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