Bones (2001) Movie Review

The pitfall of reviewing movies such as Bones is the risk of being labeled as someone who doesn’t “get” it — with “it” being the movie in question. Mostly it’s the people who really, really like the movie that throws the label at those who claims not to like it. This is justified because the people who likes the movie insists on your not “getting” it because there must be something wrong with you for not liking it, and not that there is something wrong with them for liking it. Get it?

Bones is a horror/slasher/hip-hop film. It’s hip-hop because it stars hip-hop star/rapper Snoop Dogg in the title role of Jimmy Bones, a ’70s gangster (or ghetto superstar, you might say) who despite being a gangster is beloved by “his people” — a mostly black neighborhood. Trouble arises when Jimmy doesn’t play along with a new gangster and his crooked white cop. Jimmy is murdered and buried in the basement of his own building, a tall monstrosity of a brick house. 20 Years later, four teens decide to turn Jimmy’s old house into a nightclub. Trouble ensues and Jimmy is unleashed from his prison to exact revenge on those who wronged him 20 years earlier.

Bones is, in a word, bad. At the risk of sounding like one of those who claim musicians should sing and not act, I must say: Musicians should sing and not act. As the title character, Snoop Dogg is horrendous. Not only does he show very little charisma or any acting chops, but also the man is playing himself. (Anyone who has seen Snoop Dogg in person or in interviews will understand.)Dogg is not a good actor. He is somewhat charismatic in person because his dry delivery and easy-going manner exudes likeability.

Unfortunately, Dogg’s character of Jimmy Bones is supposed to be a hard-core gangster, albeit one with a heart of gold. Forget the fact that I find the entire premise of Jimmy Bones being a sort of “Robin Hood” of the ghetto to be preposterous, especially in light of the fact that he controls the neighborhood’s drug traffic. Am I suppose to suddenly feel that Jimmy Bones is not such a bad guy after all because he refused to sell a cheaper and less pure version of drugs to “his people?” No dice. The man is scum however you put it. Giving a kid a buck and telling him to go buy himself something nice doesn’t quite make up for poisoning that same kid years later with a crack pipe.

Saying Bones has a lot of problems is an understatement. The acting across the board is terrible. The usually reliable Michael T. Weiss (TV’s “The Pretender) plays Lupovich, a crooked cop who had a hand in killing Jimmy 20 years earlier, is earning a paycheck and trying to hide his face as much as possible. Lupovich is supposed to have aged 20 years and packed on a lot of pounds, but he looks like Martin Short’s “Jiminy Glick” persona but with less-than-effective “fat” makeup.

As if to give Weiss a run for his money in the embarrassment department, blaxploitation mainstay Pam Grier co-stars as Pearl, Jimmy’s love interest, and a taro reader and psychic. Actually, the phrase “crazy lady” would be a more appropriate name for her character, as she runs around spouting ridiculous metaphysical nonsense as if they were gospel. What’s worst, she’s got her daughter (Bianca Lawson) doing it, too! The rest of the cast should all be embarrassed with themselves, unless of course they knew the film was a travesty to begin with, and was in “on the joke.”

Co-writers Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe (it took two people to write this trash?) introduces us to Bones’ lack of brains early in the picture with the introduction of the 4 kids who plans on turning Jimmy’s house into a nightclub. When the teenagers first arrive at the house, they find these things: Fresh and bloody fingerprint marks on the front porch; a big black dog with bright red glowing eyes; what looks like a bloody and fresh human jaw in the living room; and the skeletal remains of Jimmy Bones in the basement with a switchblade sticking out of his chest. So what do our intrepid club entrepreneurs do? Well they move into the house to “fix it up” of course! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Bones is as smart as my pet parakeet — and I don’t even have a parakeet.

On the plus side, director Ernest Dickerson must have realized that he had a turkey on his hands, and seems to be trying to make up for a terrible film going experience with flashy camera tricks. It works. Dickerson’s moving cameras and groovy angles are the only things that make Bones slightly watchable. Dickerson has a very good eye for scene transition, and images of Jimmy Bones’ “ghost” loitering around the house (moving along the walls, appearing out of shadows) are quite effective. Too bad Dickerson had to choose this bag of bones, since his skills as a director would have been better serve with another movie. Any other movie.

Rather it’s the writers’ fault or Dickerson, another one of Bones’ big problems concerns pacing. The movie is a literal bore until the hour mark, when Jimmy is finally “free” from his prison to kill. And even then, the movie’s kill scenes are quick and lack originality. The bodycount is way too low for a slasher film, and Dickerson and crew seems to think throwing gallons and gallons of fake-looking blood at us will help drown out (pun intended) the movie’s obvious lack of entertainment value. And is it me, or did those blood look…pink?

In the end, Bones is good for a laugh. There are so many absurd situations and characters that if properly intoxicated or otherwise altered, one might actually find Snoop Dogg’s latest effort to be marginally entertaining. Marginally.

Ernest R. Dickerson (director) / Adam Simon, Tim Metcalfe (screenplay)
CAST: Snoop Doggy Dogg …. Jimmy Bones
Pam Grier …. Pearl
Michael T. Weiss …. Det. Lupovich
Clifton Powell …. Jeremiah Peet
Ricky Harris …. Eddie Mack
Bianca Lawson …. Cynthia

Buy Bones on DVD