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Bones Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 June 2004

Bones (Platinum Series)

New Line Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: R
starring: Snoop Dogg, Pam Grier, Khalil Kain, Clifton Powell, Bianca Lawson, Michael T. Weiss
release year: 2001
film rating: Three stars
sound/picture: Three-and-a-Half stars
reviewed by: Mel Odom

"Bones" bursts into the home theater with a throbbing basso beat from the subwoofer on a surround sound system, as a man runs through the night-shrouded street. Obvious fear motivates the guy, stoking the viewer’s interest immediately. A thudding heartbeat later, the camera pans to a building that looks like a skull, window eyes dormant with vacancy but shadowed with dark purpose. The building sits alone in the darkness, and the viewer can’t help but feel the weight of the structure.

Then a hound with hellish red eyes races from the night, chasing after the man. The story proceeds for a time, sleek and streamlined as a sniper’s bullet. The movie’s subject matter and storytelling chooses directness over subtlety. "Bones" is a horror story with Gothic overtones and, well, makes no bones about that concept.

Director Ernest Dickerson serves up a bloody concoction that’s a blend of straight-ahead American slasher and psychological Italian horror. In fact, one of the scenes in the movie shows Pam Grier’s character viewing Jimmy Bones’ hand emerging from the darkness in her bedroom. That scene is pure homage to the Italian influence, and Dickerson generously acknowledges this in one of the accompanying documentaries on the DVD. Dickerson’s use of color, primarily red against the black and dark shadowy backgrounds at the movie’s beginning, works to bring out suspense and the supernatural. In later scenes, Dickerson uses greens and blues for sensory impact.

After the hound disappears, the story switches to two white college students trying to score crack in the ‘hood. Two local dealers set the students up and steal their car. Hearing the car alarm, the students return to where they left the car, only to find that the vehicle has been taken. The approach of police scares the two students into the nearest building: the skull-faced edifice that has become center stage of the movie.

While the cops’ search for the college students continues for a short time inside the house, Michael T. Weiss is introduced as Detective Lupovich, a man with a checkered past who doesn’t travel on the right side of the law. The detective calls an end to the chase, giving the viewers the idea that he’s afraid of something inside the place. A quick flashback to the world 20 years ago raises more questions for the audience. The computer graphics of the sinister shadow stretching across the walls and wearing Snoop Dogg’s face might be child’s play for the cybernetically adept, but the effect is appropriately eerie and full of foreboding.

The college students enjoy a short-lived reprieve. Out on the street again, they get a warning from the man who ran for his life earlier. The students ignore the warning, and they pay the price as the monstrous dog lunges out of the shadows and tears them to shreds.

The movie segues to the credits, taking that time to build the world of 1979, showing the evil building in a totally different light back when the neighborhood was in better times, and hinting at the man that was Jimmy Bones. Snoop Dogg delivers a solid performance as the neighborhood hero. Bones is a numbers runner and basically the godfather to the streets. Everybody knows Bones. Urban myths cycle about him, about his generous nature and about his bad side. But the viewer is left wondering what happened to Jimmy Bones. The DVD box’s back cover mentions that Bones was murdered, but the questions of who and why remain.

Fast forwarding to the present, when "Bones" returns to the skull-faced building. The structure is the only thing standing on that side of the street in the old neighborhood. Desolation and hopelessness has filled the same street where Jimmy Bones swaggered like an Olympian champion among the people he protected.

Khalil Kain stars as Patrick, the leading force of an entertainment group known as Resurrection Brothers (appropriately enough, by the end of the movie), who specialize in spinning music for parties. Patrick steps into the ruins of the building and outlines his plans to convert the place into a club. Of course, every confirmed horror movie aficionado knows that this is when events really get weird and dangerous. Tia, Patrick’s sister, even makes a friend of the hound from hell, making every viewer instantly suspicious about what’s going on.

Pam Grier plays the former girlfriend of Jimmy Bones. Grier’s character has a daughter (Bianca Lawson, who brings a sensual edge to the proceedings) from her relationship with Bones, and currently runs a shop specializing in fortune telling and séances. She catches Patrick and his friends at the building and tells them to go away, and not to feed the dog. "Some holes can’t be filled," the fortuneteller says. "Some hunger can’t be satisfied."

The screenplay by Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe is simple and dead-on. Nothing in the script or the movie is played over the top, and the logical progression of the story and the horror steadily mounts. Even though a jaundiced viewer can tell what is coming by the beats, the story never misses a connection, constantly dialing up the tension and leaving the audience wanting to see Jimmy Bones rise from the dead. After all, seeing Snoop Dogg take on the mantle of the latest urban nightmare is what brought most of the theater crowd to watch.

In one of the attached documentaries, Dickerson and Simon admit that the finished movie doesn’t follow the original script. Where the script at first progressed linearly, the finished version of the movie intercuts episodically, revealing the various stories that form the overall tapestry that is Jimmy Bones: his beginning, his end, and his resurrection—plus a glimpse of his dark future.

The special effects of the movie are low-key by "Matrix" standards, but extremely intense. From the elaborate and arcane shadows that skate across the walls and ceilings at the beginning and through the mid-point of the movie, to the wall of dead that writhes and screams, the films special effects crew serves up a generous helping of fear and disgust. In a later interview, loaded onto the DVD, Dickerson talks about the need for both computer graphic effects and old-style Hollywood gore effects rendered through models and animatronics.

A true horror film fan will relish the documentaries included on the DVD. In addition to explaining and illustrating in general how the wall of writhing dead was created (out of plastic trash bags, goop, and willing belief on part of the viewer), Dickerson and Simon discuss how the movie was chopped into pieces and set up to flow differently. Those changes and the effects they were meant to engineer are discussed, and the viewer who takes the time to watch the supplementary material will get something of a refined education in the art of moviemaking. Watching the deleted scenes will further that education, as well as making those willing to invest the time more knowledgeable about some of the intricacies of the characters. And, of course, those scenes and that information are just plain fun.

The movie can almost be divided into two parts, though. The first part is all about Jimmy Bones, who he was and what happened to him at the hands of his friends and enemies. The viewer is treated like a detective as the writers and director carefully move the pieces around until a mystery is both presented and preserved. But the second part (roughly the last third) of the movie is purely the story of Jimmy Bones returning from the dead to seek vengeance on those who wronged him.

Snoop Dogg strides out of the yawning, burning hell of his old brownstone. Clad in a long duster and wearing a trademark hat, with his knife in hand, Jimmy Bones is death come walking. When first discussing the possibility of doing a film, Snoop Dogg said he wanted to do a horror film and that Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name was one of his favorite celluloid characters. "Bones" seems to lose a step in its final third of the movie, giving us no central hero to root for or fear for, but by this time Bones has become the center of attention.

Fans of the horror genre and gory special effects will find "Bones" a welcome addition to their DVD home library. People interested in possibly working in the horror moviemaking industry will appreciate the commentary provided by Dickerson and Simon. During their audio commentary, Dickerson and Simon still seem to get lost in the movie, growing quiet at the same points the home viewer gets tense. Just as the movie still has that effect on the creative minds behind the story, the tale of Jimmy Bones’ vengeance grips the viewer, whether he or she watches for the first time or again and again. Jimmy Bones may well be New Line Cinema’s next franchise, following in the bloody footprints of other horror brand names like Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers.

more details
sound format:
English Dolby Digital DTS ES 6.1 Surround; English Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround Sound; English Stereo Surround Sound
aspect ratio(s):
special features: Filmmaker Commentary with Snoop Dog, Director Ernest Dickerson, Screenwriter Adam Simon; Original Documentaries, DIGGING UP BONES and URBAN GOTHIC: BONES AND ITS INFLUENCE; Deleted Scenes with director commentary; Music Video; Theatrical Press Kit; Theatrical Trailer; English subtitles DVD-ROM Features: Script-to-Screen, Link to Original Website, Hot Spot (not available on Apple Macintosh)
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Pioneer DV-C302D
receiver: RCA RT2280
main speakers: RCA RT2280
center speaker: RCA RT2280
rear speakers: RCA RT2280
subwoofer: RCA RT2280
monitor: 42-inch Toshiba HD Projection TV

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