With the recent success of Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man there has been a renewed interest online of Paul Verhoeven’s 2000 film Hollow Man. He spoke a few years back about his disappointment of how the film turned out to the point where he was depressed about his career. Damn, now that is pretty disheartening. He gave his reasons (which we’ll get to at the end of this) for his animosity, but were they justified?
Cribbing a lot of its plot points from H.G. Wells iconic novel and the countless film adaptations we have a team of scientists working to create a serum to make people invisible for the Department of Defense. After finally cracking a serum to reverse the process Dr. Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) decides to be the first human test subject in spite of reservations from colleagues Linda (Elisabeth Shue) and Matt (Josh Brolin).
The down side, he cannot be brought back. As they begin to look for answers Sebastian slides into madness. And this is where the first issue comes up. The story doesn’t do anything to distinguish itself from any other of the typical mad scientist films. Even worse, apart from the three characters I talked about, the rest of the cast is left with nothing of merit to do. They provide nothing more than exposition dumps and allow for a higher body count in the final act.
“It’s amazing what you can do… when you don’t have to look at yourself in the mirror any more.”
The acting does bring something to the film. Bacon does a terrific job going from an egocentric scientist to a transparent megalomaniac in the span of under two hours. We can appreciate his hubris in the beginning, but the moment shit gets real we’re out of his camp. Both Shue and Brolin are fine as the enablers of Caine’s ego. It does feel like both of them knew this film wasn’t exactly high art and their performances hover just above phoning it in.
As stated the supporting cast gets really screwed over which is a shame as there’s some great talent in the mix. Greg Grunberg has some fun moments before he got fully pulled into the Abrams acting troupe. Kim Dickens gets to play the moral compass, but can come off a bit self righteous. And then there’s Joey Slotnick who’s a personal favorite character actor. It’s nice seeing him get more than just a guest spot on a TV series. Seriously, can someone get this guy a decent role? I think he deserves it. Rhona Mitra also pops up, but now that I’m older her part in this film comes off far more uncomfortable. Especially if you see the director’s cut where there’s an extension to her scene.
“You don’t make history by following the rules, you make it by seizing the moment.”
The film definitely shines in the special FX department. At the time there was some cutting edge CGI and it often holds up. It’s crazy to think that an entire computer model of Bacon’s body (down to every blood vessel) was created to produce the transformation scene. As the centerpiece of VFX this moment is impressively gruesome.
Verhoeven’s main complaint about Hollow Man was that the finished product wasn’t unique to his vision. “I think many other people could have done that. I don’t think many people could have made RoboCop that way, or either Starship Troopers. But Hollow Man, I thought there might have been 20 directors in Hollywood who could have done that.” I tend to agree with him. In spite of it being often polarizing, Verhoeven has a style that is unique and it just wasn’t in this project. That said Hollow Man is a disposable thriller and isn’t the worst film from that era to revisit.
Overall Score: 3/5