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THE BONE COLLECTOR – Craig Armstrong

November 5, 1999 Leave a comment Go to comments

bonecollectorOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Taking films such as Silence of the Lambs and Seven as its starting point, The Bone Collector is another entry into the “thriller noir” genre, in which saturated color, rain-soaked streets and grisly murders are the order of the day. Directed by Phillip Noyce, the film stars Denzel Washington as Detective Lincoln Rhyme, one of New York’s finest forensic cops, whose career is cut tragically short when he is paralyzed following a freak accident on the job. Now the recipient of round the clock care and confined to his state of the art apartment-cum-hospital, Rhyme’s skills are unexpectedly called upon once more after a beat cop named Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie) discovers a murder victim within an elaborately staged crime scene. Uncovering her untapped potential for forensics, Rhyme urges Amelia to be his feet on the ground while he, with his intellect still very much intact, tries to piece together the clues and identify the murderer before he takes more victims.

The good thing about The Bone Collector is that is doesn’t try to be anything other than 2 hours of solid entertainment, offering heart-stopping excitement, hesitant romance, oppressive atmosphere, plenty of hi-tech gadgetry, and a fair bit of gore to anyone who enters the cinema. Denzel Washington, despite only being able to move his head and an index finger throughout the entire movie, makes Lincoln Rhyme a wholly believable, well-rounded character, whose complexities and nuances are played out against the scenario of a man trying to regain some of the humanity he lost through his work. Angelina Jolie, who seems to be in nearly every movie released these days, is spunky, impulsive, intelligent, and seemingly unfazed by the task presented to her, while a supporting cast that includes Michael Rooker, Queen Latifah, Ed O’Neill and Luis Guzman are all solid and dependable.

The Bone Collector’s music is equally important, in that it sees the American debut of Scottish composer Craig Armstrong, who burst onto the film music scene three years ago with William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, and followed up that BAFTA-winning success with scores such as Best Laid Plans and Plunkett & Macleane. As was the case on his previous scores, The Bone Collector is a superb combination of a large, bustling symphony orchestra with a bank of synthesizers, resulting in a sound that is similar to, but more musically satisfying than Hans Zimmer’s patented heroism. The main title, ‘New York City’ is a quintessentially Armstrongian cue – a repeated eight-note piano melody, massive orchestral accompaniment, bold timpani strokes, and percussive synth grooves giving the music a slick, urban sound.

Darkly-hued string textures augmented by synths are the order of the day for much of the underscore proper, although even here Armstrong continually weaves the main motif in and out of the listener’s consciousness, sometimes re-orchestrated for oboes or a large bed of strings, sometimes buried beneath the electronics, but always maintaining the thematic consistency. Further increasing the score’s impact is Armstrong’s liberal use of the Metro Voices and their soloist Catherine Bott, whose work on cues such as ‘Prelude’, ‘Race Against Time’, ‘Amelia’s Crisis’ and ‘The City Awakes’ is at times almost operatic in nature.

A slight variation on the central piano motif, once again accompanied by slow-moving strings, acts as a secondary theme for Amelia in ‘Amelia’s Song’, and which is developed further into the lovely ‘Rhyme and Amelia’s Love Theme’. At the other end of the scale, some vicious action music occasionally takes over and makes the listener sit bolt upright. Increasingly urgent brass calls and huge timpani smashes characterize ‘Taxi Ride’, the violent ‘Seizure’ leaves you in no doubt as to the precarious nature of Lincoln’s plight, and ‘Pier Pressure’ is simply awesome, building once more upon the main theme, but this time with an added sense of power through a much more prominent brass section, sweeping string strokes and a driving electronic pulse. The conclusive ‘Final Confrontation’, despite seeming much too big and bold in the film itself, gets the adrenaline pumping no end while listening to the CD.

It surely won’t be long before Craig Armstrong finds himself listed in the same group as composers such as Zimmer, Revell and Edelman – synth fusion composers whose music is bolstered and given a broader scope by the combination of the classical and the contemporary. Although he has only five scores to his name, and although he is relatively untried outside the action thriller domain, I personally feel that Armstrong is one of the rising stars of film music. His themes are good and memorable, his command of the orchestra is impressive, and his electronics work for the benefit of the score, playing a solid supporting role rather than taking center stage and diminishing the impact of the acoustic elements. Hans, Graeme, Randy… watch out. There’s a new kid on the block, and I think he’s better than all of you.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • New York City (2:59)
  • Prelude (4:32)
  • Taxi Ride (1:36)
  • Amelia’s Song (3:23)
  • Race Against Time (2:26)
  • Walking the Grid (2:31)
  • Working the Evidence (2:04)
  • Seizure (2:22)
  • Rhyme and Amelia’s Love Theme (3:00)
  • Mackenzie (3:50)
  • Amelia’s Crisis (4:12)
  • Pier Pressure (5:07)
  • Underground (2:28)
  • Final Confrontation (4:01)
  • The City Awakes (2:48)
  • New York City (Orchestral Version) (2:54)

Running Time: 50 minutes 18 seconds

Decca 466-804-2 (1999)

Music composed by Craig Armstrong. Conducted by Cecilia Weston. Orchestrations by Craig Armstrong and Matt Dunkley. Featured musical soloists Gavin Wright, Luis Jardim, Pete Lockett, Dave Harvey and Craig Armstrong. Special vocal performances by Catherine Bott and Metro Voices. Recorded and mixed by Geoff Foster. Edited by Joe E. Rand. Album produced by Craig Armstrong.

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