HOLLOW MAN (2000) 

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Elisabeth Shue
Kevin Bacon
Josh Brolin
Kim Dickins
Greg Grunberg
Joey Slotnick
Mary Randle
William Devane
Rhona Mitra

Paul Verhoeven



Time: 112 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror

Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.

I have to admit the main reason I didn't see this in the theater was because it got horrible reviews. I'm also not a big fan of the slick effects/no plot school of director Paul Verhoeven. Though that's kind of what got me to watch this film recently. I was looking for something mindless and I new the visual treats would be endless. Of course, I had no idea that this was such a horror movie. I kind of expected a dark thriller, but not the blood bath it degrades to in the last half hour, which is why this doesn't get a higher rating. Not because of the mayhem itself, but the pure silliness of it. Bacon and Shue have proven on occasion that they are very powerful and capable actors, however, the only areas of talent they use here are their considerable good looks and some attitude. Nothing more is called for in this thin as a crepe plot. Of course, why clutter up good effects with character development and story? Apparently all the audience wants is to see Bacon disappear.

Well, we get plenty of that...and even I have to admit it's like nothing I've ever seen before. They were completely robbed by the Academy. I guess the members didn't want to award an Oscar to such over-the-top tripe, but man, they deserved it. The detail that goes into making Bacon disappear, one layer at a time is both impressive and completely grotesque. It is the height of this movie, so pay attention. It doesn't get better than this. Once he becomes invisible, the film makers use all sorts of tricks to "show" him visually, which are equally impressive. However, nothing the rest of this film serves up is half as powerful. Certainly, if one were to become invisible for a length of time, the temptation to do unsavory things would be fairly strong. I'm just not sure it would push someone to mass murder. The first hour and a half is pretty entertaining stuff. There's jealousy, intrigue, love, government secrecy and they make a man disappear. Not bad. It's the "evil man who won't die" horror movie ending I have a problem with.

"It's amazing what you can do when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror."

See, they weren't supposed to test on a human, but Sebastian (Bacon), who cracked the code of invisibility, doesn't want to share his secret with the government yet. He wants to be the first human test subject, since he believes once the military has the project in their hands, his staff will be cut out. His partners Linda (Shue) and Matt (Brolin) don't like the idea of lying to the committee, but know he has a point. They've worked too hard to have someone else take the credit. So, they lie to the rest of the staff and proceed with the experiment. Everything goes according to plan except for one small thing. They aren't able to bring him back. All of their tests were on apes and other smaller animals. Humans are more complex and despite their best efforts, they can't revert him to normal. Sebastian doesn't take kindly to failure, nor to being told what to do. Living in the underground lab for days on end makes him a little stir crazy. He's not supposed to leave, but with mask in place, he takes a little joy ride. He also begins to test the limits of his "power" and sense of morality.

Linda is far from pleased by his jaunt in public and threatens to expose the project to the committee if he steps foot out of the facility again. Sebastian doesn't take orders well, especially from an ex-girlfriend who's moved on. The team relies on their thermal imaging cameras to keep an eye on their invisible boss, but he manages to fool them again. This time what he secretly sees in the real world sends him over the deep end. Unable to cope with what he considers the ultimate betrayal he goes on a rampage to ensure there's no one left to expose his existence to the outer world. From here the film spirals into a veritable blood bath, leaving no one unscathed and forcing Shue into the role of super-heroine. The whole underground cat and mouse game left me with one major unanswerable question: If they can only see Sebastian by wearing their thermal goggles, why aren't they wearing them all the time? Even after he goes crazy, they all just run around with them in their hands. Hello...you can't capture something you can't see. If it were me, I'd have them glued to my face 24/7 as long as he was invisible. They all just seem to take for granted that he's going to behave himself. Not a smart assumption for a group of eggheads.

There are many more implausibilities to this story, but it did teach me some important life lessons. First and foremost, never work in a facility where the only means of escape is an elevator. Second, disrobing in front of open window blinds can have serious consequences, so a little modesty ladies if you value your personal safety. Third, always have duct tape on hand, since you never know when you'll need it to close a gaping stomach wound. Fourth and final, it's hard to sleep when your eyelids are invisible, so keep a dark pair of sunglasses handy. One thing I wouldn't care for if I was invisible, the fact that you're buck naked, which our intrepid heroes never seem to take full advantage of. A little broken glass outside the door would help keep him in place. I guess, according to this movie, invisibility equals invulnerability because Sebastian just keeps coming back for more, even after being burned and electrocuted. You'd think his private parts constantly blowing back and forth in the wind would cause him some discomfort. Maybe when you're that pissed off, being naked doesn't really matter all that much.

After being disappointed in Josh Brolin's weak-ass attack on Bacon's character, it finally occurred to me why the killer always gets back up in these movies. It's because if the good guys actually killed them on purpose, they would no longer be good guys. So the killer is forced to continue on their rampage until some large spike or 100 foot drop gets in their way, ending the spree while keeping the soul of our hero intact. Unless the intended victim/hero is a woman. We seem to be allowed a little straight vengeance every now and then. It's the PMS factor. Shue does a good job here as the woman who saves the day, but, much like in THE SAINT, I just don't buy her as a scientist. She's just missing something behind those big, soft eyes. Then again, maybe it's the sweater sets that are throwing me off. The rest of the cast is there to fulfill a certain character type and they all perform admirably, considering they're playing opposite someone who isn't there. Bacon gives a rousingly, over-the-top, bravura turn as the mad scientist. His footprints are all over this flick, though most of the time he's not onscreen. Despite the cool special effects, the title pretty much sums up the feeling you're left with. However, if you're looking for a little brainless and bloody entertainment, you could do a lot worse than THE HOLLOW MAN.

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