- Anatomy of a Thriller
- Fleshing out the Hollow Man
- Picture in Picture Comparisons
You can’t see Kevin Bacon!
Kevin Bacon. Elizabeth Shue. Josh Brolin. Greg Grunberg. Rhona Mitra. Kim Dickens. Joey Slotnick.
Director Paul Verhoeven.
I forget if this is the post-invisorape moment or a photo from Rhona Mitra’s personal collection entitled "Just Got Highwaymen‘s Opening Weekend Numbers".
The idea of an invisible man is an old one, having been done to great effect by folks like Claude Rains and absentee fathers throughout time thanks in no small part to bearded genius H.G. Wells and his then-original story. There’s also that Chevy Chase abomination…
Paul Verhoeven had just come off the underappreciated Starship Troopers, a massive undertaking laden with subtext both sly and gratuitously overt and chose to make a straightforward thriller using cutting edge special effects and a very naked Kevin Bacon. It took his career some time to recover from it.
Kevin Bacon is Sebastian Caine, a brilliant scientist on the goverment’s payroll to design a super stealth weapon in the form of controlled invisibility. We know he’s brilliant because he types a few things into a computer and when the simulated molecular bonding goes bad he gets pissed off and walks around before a Eureka! moment seizes him. Then he is energized so much that he gets on the webcam with his teammate/ex-lover (Elizabeth Shue, scuttling some of her Leaving Las Vegas wattage) before driving to work whilst ‘rocking out’ to the worst music in town.
I don’t even know why Michael Jackson even bothers leaving the house.
Having cracked a major problem with his invisibility technique, Sebastian takes the next step towards figuring it out. Testing it on himself, much to the chagrin of his teammates and eventually… the audience, he becomes six degrees of guinea pig. Due to test subjects (including a primate, who gets the film’s first "wow" when it invisibly eats a rat) coming out of the process with severe issues, Sebastian’s effort leads to different consequences that may not result in his molecules crapping the bed but with his lesser qualities getting amplified it’s no less destructive.
First of all, imagine a science team comprised of Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Joey Slotnick, Kim Dickens, and Greg Grunberg. Stop laughing, assholes!
After a showstopping sequence showcasing his every layer being phased out (yes ladies, you get to his his penis vein system and it’s a doozy) everyone’s favorite Lithgow annoyer is unseen and ready for shenanigans. It goes bad.
"Mmmmmmmph your taste tastes good but… whoa! You shop at Uzumaki Furniture also?"
I defy any of you to become invisible and not let it get to your head. Once ‘hollow’ the leading man tests the waters a little before cabin fever and frustration sends him outside the science compound and out into the real world where no one is invisible except fans of my music. As time builds and a return to the lab yields only more frustration, Sebastian loses it. He finds out that his lady is dating Josh Brolin’s character and that their sugar daddy Uncle Sam (personified here by the stiff and angular William Devane) is going to pull the plug. He spies, he steams, and he puts 250,000 of his best squiggly invisible friends into an unwilling Rhona Mitra before getting really angry and setting up a confrontation with his fellow scientists that leaves many burned, bled out, and visibly hating life.
Mitra’s breasts are seen in this cut and they are glorious. She’s so saucy I almost felt bad being aroused during her brutal rape by Mr. Cellophane.
I’ve spent most of this review summing up the plot, because though Hollow Man has tons of potential (and the Josh Brolin casting is only the tip of the iceberg), it’s really a thin little movie. This had the talent and potential to be its decade’s The Fly (1986) but instead focuses more on cool special effects than character development. Though Bacon plays the villain of the piece and its tragic character (the ravaged and baffled Rhona Mitra may disagree), he’s never likable and that makes the progression seem rote. Jeff Goldblum’s descent in Cronenberg’s body horror classic only works because buy you into his brilliance and his charisma. Sebastian Caine is a dick from scene one so the audience is left waiting for the cool visual moments rather than watching an actor they’re used to loving descend into tragedy. Elizabeth Shue and Josh Brolin (who really is much more effective with facial hair) try, but her floppy haircut and a script that shortchanges everything aside from invisible transmutations do them little good.
"HOLY SHIT! I AM BACON!"
Thing is, Verhoeven’s so good at his job that the film still almost works on a visceral level. Everything’s well-lit and bright that a horror film that doesn’t need shadows and jump scares gets good mileage by virtue of its concept. Sadly, it’s not good and this "unrated" version doesn’t add enough to justify the double dip.
There’s nothing new here aside from a foil-embossed cover. If you’ve seen the "special edition" (which I reviewed in 2001 for IGN here) you’ve seen this one aside from the slightly beefed up running time. This DVD may be extraneous.
6.0 out of 10
When Devane met Da Vein, or Finer Moments in Underwater Penis CGI.