Hollow Man

Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Starring: Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
August 5, 2000

You might think I'm not the biggest fan of Paul Verhoeven, just because I named his 1995 film Showgirls the worst film of the decade. That may be true, but I still like most of his work, especially the three preceding films: RoboCop, Total Recall, and Basic Instinct. I was looking forward to his newest film, as well, mostly because Kevin Bacon was the star. He usually has good taste in projects, so I figured that Verhoeven must have finally recovered from that horrendous debacle. Yet again, I have been proven wrong.

Verhoeven does his take of the classic H.G. Wells novel The Invisible Man (immortalized on film by Claude Rains), with Bacon as Dr. Sebastian Caine, a scientist working for the Department of Defense. He and his partner (and ex-lover) Dr. Linda Foster (Elisabeth Shue) have successfully made several animals invisible with a simple injection. The tricky part was getting them visible again with another injection. They finally have success with a gorilla, but Caine chooses not to let the Pentagon know about it.

His plan, of course, is to go to Phase 3: Human Testing. The subject? Himself, of course. They successfully get him invisible, and the plans are to bring him back after three days of data collection (OK, stop humming the "Gilligan's Island" theme right now!), but when the day comes, the reversal doesn't work. Caine learns to deal with this situation by going psycho -- which he was pretty close to doing even before the experiment.

Wouldn't you go nuts if your girlfriend started secretly sleeping with your research assistant -- and he's Josh Brolin? It's easy being a rapist and a murderer when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror, at least that's what this film tries to convince you. Personally, I had a hard time being convinced that I was watching a professionally-made science fiction film. Hollow Man has nothing resembling science in it, and its characters' motivations are beyond fiction.

That's just the problem with the big picture. If you start examining the minutiae, things really start to fall apart. The single most important scene -- Bacon's disappearance -- is handled with astounding incompetence. The computer effects are great, if not terribly realistic, but looking closer, you'll see that there are bubbles being injected into him (maybe their doctorates were in French literature or something). Bacon is also draped with a blanket to hide his naughty bits, but its presence seems optional from shot to shot. This kind of continuity problem combined with its context suggests only one thing: Verhoeven has bitter contempt for his audience.

Well, Paul, the feeling is mutual. You spent so much time coming up with different ways to show off the invisible effects (Bacon's surface revealed in smoke, water, steam, carbon dioxide, and blood, among other cute tricks), that you forgot to make a decent film to go with them. I saw you on the internet press junket for Hollow Man, but my question didn't get through. I asked if you were afraid to stray from action-thrillers after the failure of Showgirls. I'd like to modify that question: Are you too ashamed to make a film ever again?


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Hollow Man (2000)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Hollow Man (2000) -- VHS
Hollow Man (2000) -- DVD
Hollow Man: Score -- Compact Disc


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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan