Man (2000, dir: Paul Verhoeven; cast: Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth
Shue, Josh Brolin, William Devane)
is a dangerous thing. In James Whales's The
Invisible Man (1933), a scientist discovers the secret of invisibility,
goes insane, and begins a killing spree. Okay, maybe that was just
him. But in Hollow
Man, a scientist discovers the secret of invisibility, goes insane,
and begins a killing spree.
Man has been nominated for a Best Science Fiction Film Saturn by the
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, but it could just
as easily have been nominated for Best Horror Film. Not because it's
such a great horror film, but because it's more horror than sci-fi.
not much of a plot. Kevin Bacon plays a brilliant young scientist
heading a top secret military project in an underground lab near Washington,
DC. His team includes Elizabeth Shue (his former lover), Josh Brolin
(secretly bedding his former lover), and several bodies ... ehr, other
already turned several animals invisible. The difficulty lies in
bringing them back to visibility -- alive. The story opens as they
finally manage to do just that, with an ape. Bacon announces that
they're ready to take the experiment "to the next level." Experimenting
on a human.
It's dangerous. The ape nearly died in the attempt to restore its visibility. Shue
and Brolin oppose Bacon's recklessness. But Bacon is the gonzo genius
(as he keeps reminding everyone), so it's settled. Without informing
their military sponsors, Bacon's team injects the invisibility serum into
him. As his flesh fades, his personality is revealed. Always
conceited, blatantly comparing himself to God (this is not a subtle film),
Bacon is liberated from human society's rules and expectations. He
teases his teammates, playing voyeuristic games in the rest rooms with
one woman, fondling another's breasts as she sleeps.
days later, the team discovers that what worked with apes won't work on
humans. Bacon's visibility cannot be restored. At least not
yet. The team insists that Bacon stay underground while they seek
grows frustrated. He does not like being treated like a lab rat. He does not like being ordered about by his underlings. He grows
embittered, paranoid, jealous of his teammates. Antsy, he sneaks
in and out of the underground lab. Outside, he discovers that invisibility
confers ... power.
assaults his neighbor (possibly raping her; it's not clear). When
he discovers Shue with Brolin readying for love at Shue's apartment, Bacon's
jealousy and fury increase (as in The
Invisible Man). Once everyone is back in the underground lab,
Bacon cuts off all means of communication, seals all exits ... and body
what riled so many critics. What began as a sci-fi thriller with
human drama, now morphs into a yet another slice & dice horror film,
with Bacon determined to kill his entire team.
a bad body-count film. Until the killings start, we're treated to
some cool invisibility special effects. And once they're underway,
the killings are violent, visceral, and mildly imaginative. But while
Man is not as suspenseful as it might
have been. An invisible killer stalking his prey has much suspense
Invisible Man delivered on that potential. But in Hollow
Man, the gore and effects overwhelm any suspense.
cartoony sort of gore, the kind seen in martial arts films. There's
no mention that the serum conferred any superhuman strength, yet Bacon
withstands brutal physical abuse (at one point he's set afire with a flame
thrower), yet he still returns for more killing. Much like Michael
Myers and Jason Voorhees.
only Bacon. At one point, Bacon slams Shue's head full force against
a steel pipe. Her head bounces back, a large gash along her forehead. It's the sort of thing that may easily kill a person; at the very least
cause severe brain damage. But Shue just arises from the floor, and
they two continue pulverizing one another.
and destruction are exciting to behold, but insanely implausible. Shue, Brolin, and Bacon (scientists, not combat soldiers) battle inside
an elevator shaft, an elevator rocketing past them, then plummeting back
down, crashing against the walls, explosions shooting huge fireballs up
the shaft.... Violence and mayhem as thrilling as in any James Bond
film. And just as likely.
likes young, attractive characters, thus, its sci-fi films normally feature
brilliant, accomplished scientists too young to be so accomplished. Hollow
Man follows that formula. Bacon and his team look like attractive
Gen-Xers. In reality, both Bacon and Shue are nearly forty, but as
neither looks it, the film (if not the story) capitalizes on their youth
Man is a stupid film. Really stupid. And long, running
at nearly two hours. Much of its potential for suspense was wasted. So too its potential to explore character, the extent to which self-identity
stems from what we, and others, see of ourselves. Bacon could have
made for an interesting mad scientist. Instead, watching the film,
one often feels compelled to shout: "No way!" and "Get out!"
the sort who was satisfied with Twister because of its cool tornado effects, you'll likely be satisfied with Hollow
Man because of its cool invisibility effects. And once the novelty
wears off, you'll be treated to a generous and graphic body count, plus
extensive scenes of laboratory destruction, and many explosions.
Review copyright by Thomas
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