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It's a Paul Verhoeven film! Admittedly this is less exciting than it was back when Verhoeven was best known for Robocop, Total Recall and Basic Instinct, but even his disasters (Showgirls) are like nothing that a sane director would even contemplate. I even quite liked Starship Troopers, though I was shocked and disgusted when Denise Richards didn't go topless. That's an interesting filmography. Whether Verhoeven's latest is a classic or a stinker, one can watch it in the confident expectation of absolutely no taste or restraint. What more could one ask for?
Unfortunately Hollow Man feels a tad formulaic, even nearly bland. Verhoeven's anti-taste manifests itself in something worse than rape, that simply happens and is then forgotten about and never followed up on. Huh? What? Y'bastard! The more you think about it, the more disturbing it gets. That's nasty and distasteful even by Verhoeven's standards, especially in a popcorn film like this... but it's a throwaway detail, so one simply gets on with the film. (Apparently it was originally to have been seen in more detail, but the scene got trimmed down due to unfavourable test audience reaction.)
Kevin Bacon's character is a voyeur and a prick, too intense and self-obsessed even to tell a joke well. He's unethical, a liar and eventually creepy as hell. You won't be surprised for a moment by where the script is going with this, but there's a certain zest in his shameless egomania. He also has a lovely busty neighbour, so Verhoeven's dirty old man urges are satisfied and I almost forgve him for letting Elizabeth Shue stay clothed throughout. I presume she negotiated a no-nudity clause in her contract (Verhoeven's reputation precedes him), so her character even keeps her bra on for sex! Shame. But even fully dressed, she's still Elizabeth Shue. Yummy.
The CGI is a big reason to watch this movie. Some of the action scenes are dreadful, but anything medical is astonishing. This is what the technique might have been invented for. Watch an invisible gorilla turn visible from the inside out! See fluid injected into its veins spreading through its circulatory system! Watching this, you'll realise that all these years the invisible-man movie genre was waiting for movie-making technology to catch up with what we wanted to see.
Sometimes our invisible man wears a latex mask, presumably to cut back the CGI bill. Those eyeholes look kinda spooky (hence the title: "Hollow Man"). Hell, all round visually I have no complaints with this film... well, except for Elizabeth Shue's regrettable lack of nudity.
It's just a shame about the script.
The medical stuff feels well researched, but it's goof-ridden. Human DNA is not more complex than an ape's! (DNA is remarkably invariant between different life-forms; on a genetic level humans are apparently close cousins of yeast.) As usual in this sub-genre, Hollow Man ignores the fact that an invisible man has an invisible retina and should thus be blind. Normally one overlooks such details for the sake of the story, but: (a) this movie takes great pains to show its heroes doing scientific stuff and working out everything step by step, and (b) they even point out that his eyelids are transparent!
And then there's the veterinarian silliness. A man goes into a maddened gorilla's cage to give it an injection! Don't these people have dart guns? (We later discover that yes, they do!) The gorilla bites him and escapes, but we're talking here about an animal that can bend steel and snap off your limbs like twigs. This idiot should be dead. Oh, and they're keeping these apes in cruelly small cages, though one could argue that this is in character for Bacon's ruthlessly single-minded research techniques.
(And those are just the goofs that your cloth-eared reviewer noticed for himself! The imdb's "goofs" page for Hollow Man has a staggering list of cock-ups, probably more than almost any other movie. There's over forty of 'em. You read, and read, and read...)
Every so often Hollow Man serves up some tasteless fun. I laughed at the bit where he scares two children, and I also loved the scene with the rat. (But why not a hamster or a puppy?) However it never serves up any surprises, with the ending being downright predictable and perhaps going on a bit long too. When it's convenient for the script, our heroes remember about an escape route that might have been useful earlier.
Hollow Man has some effective scenes and gets on efficiently with telling its story. I quite enjoyed it, but it's Verhoeven's least distinctive film and you'll be hard-pushed to remember much about it a week later. It's okay. Watch it by all means, but I can't see myself panting to rewatch it any time soon.