Hollow Man


          The idea of a man turning invisible has long fascinated science
  fiction writers and filmmakers. Of course, the classic take on this is
  1933's
THE INVISIBLE MAN, helmed by James Whale and starring
  Claude Rains. Even with its now primitive seeming special effects,
  that film remains a marvel and serves as one of the antecedents for
  the now shopworn cliche of the mad scientist. It was clearly the
  inspiration for
HOLLOW MAN, a 21st Century updating of the tale
  replete with state-of-the-art special effects and thematic undercurrent
  about the dangers of messing with Mother Nature. Andrew W Marlowe
  (who wrote the enjoyable
AIR FORCE ONE (1997) and then foisted
  1999's execrable Arnold Schwarzenneger apocalyptic vehicle
  
END OF DAYS on unsuspecting audiences) penned the script for this
  version, working from a story he concocted with Gary Scott Thompson.
  Unfortunately, instead of progressing as a writer, he shows little
  facility with the medium. His dialogue is clunky and leaden and the cast
  struggles gamely to deliver it without offering comment. While
  undoubtedly there could be an intriguing psychological character
  study done about scientists essentially playing God, this isn't it.

          The hiring of director Paul Verhoeven boded well, at least on
  paper. The Dutch-born director had already demonstrated his visual
  flair for sci-fi with
ROBOCOP and the much-maligned
  
STARSHIP TROOPERS and a firm grasp of the nuances of
  psychological in
THE FOURTH MAN and even BASIC INSTINCT.
  From the gruesome opening shot of a mouse being fed to an invisible
  cat,
HOLLOW MAN is pitched at a level that invokes disbelief. Quickly
  and in very broad strokes, the main characters are introduced.
  Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) is an overbearing egotist running a
  top secret government project in a subterranean vault wherein
  animals are made invisible. At the start of the film, he is attempting
  to create the serum that will reverse the process. (Between peeping
  on his neighbor, a stunning brunette with a penchant for shedding
  her clothes in full view of open windows.) The other members of
  Sebastian's research team include Sarah, a cantankerous veterinarian
  (Kim Dickens), technicians Frank (Joey Slotnick) and the token
  minority Janice (Mary Jo Randle), Carter (Greg Grunberg), Linda
  McKay (Elisabeth Shue), Caine former girlfriend, and Matt
  Kensington (Josh Brolin), Linda's current secret boyfriend. There
  are personality conflicts and Caine even is given the line "I am God"
  to demonstrate his hubris.

          After successfully turning an invisible gorilla back (in a rather
  unpleasant scene to watch), Caine determines to be the first human
  to undergo the treatment, keeping the matter secret from the Pentagon
  bureaucrat (William Devane) to whom he reports. Of course, the
  experiment works (there wouldn't be a movie if it doesn't) but the
  antidote fails and Sebastian doesn't like the idea of being confined
  and turned into a caged animal. There are hints that the serum
  begins to make him insane: He first plays pranks on the various
  members of the research team, but over time, his demeanor becomes
  more belligerent.

          Having been doused in latex so he can be seen, Sebastian
  utilizes the opportunity to escape and here is where the script begins
  to falter. He decides to attack and rape his neighbor in a very
  horrifying sequence. With his taste for blood whetted, he goes on
  to commit his first murder. When Linda and Matt threaten to go to
  the Pentagon and reveal all, Sebastian (who has spied on them
  and discovered they are lovers) seeks revenge. He traps the research
  staff in their underground lair and one by one begins to pick them
  off. By this point the filmmakers have abandoned all semblance of
  coherency and the film devolves into a slasher film.

          It's unfortunate that several fine actors are stranded in this
  muck. Given the right material, Kevin Bacon can be an effective
  leading man and the incarnation of evil (remember him in
SLEEPERS?)
  Here, he clearly is going through the motions. Elisabeth Shue may
  never find another role as complex as Sera in
LEAVING LAS VEGAS.
  In
HOLLOW MAN, she projects intelligence but she lacks a gravity
  to be fully believable as a scientist. Josh Brolin is barely given
  anything to do except verbally spar with Bacon and I doubt even
  Olivier and Gielgud could have made the banal dialogue come alive.
  Kim Dickens attempts to make an impression but her strident
  entrance into the film dilutes any sympathy for her character.

          Verhoeven seems at a loss on how to make the film visually
  interesting and his connect-the-dots direction goes completely haywire
  in the final sequences when Bacon's Caine terrorizes the others. In
  very few instances does he generate any real suspense and the
  numerous resurrections of various characters and massive explosions
  begin to grow wearisome. The film also doesn't so much end as
  just peter out overcome by its own pretensions. Ultimately,
  
HOLLOW MAN ends up as empty as its protagonist.


                                  Rating:              D
                                  MPAA Rating:     R for strong violence, language
                                                            and some sexuality/nudity
                                  Running Time:    114 mins.
© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.