Review by Kim Hollis
October 31, 2001
I suppose I should make it clear from the outset of this review that Bones holds a rather special place in my heart. The very first movie listing page we ever did for BOP was for this film, and as we tweaked the design of the page, I developed quite the unlikely affinity for the idea of Snoop Dogg as vengeful, blaxpoitation-flick-inspired ghost. I imagined I was only setting myself up for disappointment, but thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth.
The story of Jimmy Bones is told via a series of flashbacks that occur as present-day action unfolds. The movie starts by establishing that the spookiest-looking house in the drug and crime-riddled neighborhood is indeed a bastion of supernatural and creepy activity. It seems that some 20 years ago, Jimmy Bones played the role of guardian to a neighborhood where he was loved and adored by all. Flashy and stylish, handsome and well-respected, he leads the urban area to prosperity and a sense of community, but all of that is ended when an act of betrayal leads to Jimmy’s murder after he refuses to assist a crooked cop and a local drug dealer in a plan to deal crack cocaine to the local residents.
No wonder that strange stuff happens in the vicinity of his former home and base of operations, which is also where the murder took place. A mangy, red-eyed black dog seems to keep watch over the location (as we discover almost immediately), and two frat boys who have just completed a drug transaction meet a gruesome fate after they use the building as a place to hide from police.
So naturally, wouldn’t the building appear to be the perfect place for a nightclub? Four young adults, two of whom grew up in the neighborhood, believe exactly that, and purchase the structure for precisely that purpose. As they explore the house and each have their own near-confrontation with Bones, a certain eerie atmosphere is set up with an underlying layer of humor that only develops further as the story unfolds and we discover the impetus behind the ghost Bones’ need for vengeance.
The cast is mainly comprised of unknowns, save for Snoop himself and Pam Grier, who plays the woman he loved. Folks who watch a lot of television will likely recognize Michael T. Weiss (The Pretender) as the crooked cop, though his present-day scenes are played in a fat-suit which makes him more closely resemble Comedy Central’s Jimmy Glick. Other notables include Khalil Khan, who I later realized looked familiar to me due to his recent stint as Gio on the WB’s Angel, and Bianca Lawson, who played Kendra in season two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
But to be honest, the quality of the acting isn’t even that important here, though all of the players do a fine job. What does matter is that the writers (Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe) have adeptly managed to blend horror with humor in such a way that Bones is a consistently engaging popcorn flick. Bones is also infused with an indelible sense of style, partially thanks to director Ernest R. Dickerson’s ability to deftly switch between the present and the past, but also because Snoop Dogg just oozes cool. Though he’s legitimately the star of the film, Snoop’s face time is actually pretty limited; nonetheless, the most is made of each second he appears onscreen. He’s equally believable as benevolent benefactor as he is when he plays the vengeful demon.
It’s to his credit that Snoop is able to pull off the latter role, particularly since probably the main problem I had with the film is that his motives for vengeance in a couple of the cases were highly questionable. If Jimmy Bones was truly the good guy and patron of his community, I’m not sure that he should have felt wrath for a couple of his victims in particular (though a half-hearted effort is made to explain his reasoning). Eric Draven’s logic made a great deal more sense in The Crow; unfortunately, I get the feeling that the writers were afraid to borrow too heavily from Bones’ moodier cousin.
Still, that’s really a minor quibble, because Bones is obviously a film that requires a tremendous suspension of belief in order to enjoy it fully. I do feel obliged to give fair warning that there are many squirm-worthy moments, and if you find graphic violence disturbing, this one is probably a film to avoid. Yet, as a fan of horror flicks I can absolutely affirm that Bones stands out as one of the most steadily entertaining I’ve seen in the last couple of years.