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HOLLOW MAN

SYNOPSIS:
At a secret military laboratory, a group of young scientists have just unlocked the secret of human invisibility. The team's arrogant leader, Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon), ignores the risks and decides to test the dangerous procedure on himself – only to discover his fellow scientists, led by his lieutenants Linda McKay (Elizabeth Shue) and Matthew Kensington (Josh Brolin), are unable to reverse the effect. Working around the clock, Caine's colleagues struggle to devise an antidote. But Caine's intoxication with his new-found power is growing and he begins to suspect his colleagues may be a threat to his existence.

"And the Oscar for Outstanding Visual Effects goes to…Scott Anderson and team for Hollow Man. (I write this in August 2000.) And if it doesn’t, it should. The disappearing trick that this team has devised is even more magical than the famed stage tricks of Las Vegas’ Sigfried & Roy. Supported by a host of FX in which smoke, water or blood make parts of Caine visible, Hollow Man is an adventure in science fiction where the science is not in space but in the spaces between the atoms that make up the human body. And there are plenty of these scenes, so if this is your bag (or you’re a filmmaker keen to soak up some high end CGI work) Hollow Man is for you. The big plus is that you won’t be distracted by any complexities of story or character. You might start sensing about now that I am looking to find a positive spin on various aspects of Hollow Man (a film that has been launched with some truly imaginative marketing, including a live, interactive press conference for the world’s media held on the internet, complete with full vision). Here’s more: the performances – especially of Elizabeth Shue – are terrific, and production design couldn’t be better. Music is okay, too. . . but now I’m struggling, as we come to the crunch: script and direction. Here is an opportunity to tackle a genuinely fascinating subject about the human condition, like Hollywood used to do, exploring it through entertainment that appeals to the whole world. It’s not taken. The script is standard ‘mad scientist’ meets ‘creature feature’ formula, in which our brilliant young scientist is really just a dirty old man with an arrogant streak – and who not only becomes invisible but indestructible to boot. He is burnt with a flame-thrower, battered over the head with an iron bar, electrocuted with industrial strength current and he still comes back for the fatal destruction – without a scratch. But by this time the film’s inconsistencies of story have buried all credibility or suspense – and the central theme of a hero corrupted, which has enormous potential for emotional impact. A pointless sight gag (not even funny) with a fly and the part invisible Caine is symbolic of the film’s poverty of imagination. The incident takes place in the bowels of the earth in the secret lab, and there is not even an attempt to explain the fly’s presence here. More critically, though, Caine is devoid of personality or character, so that his descent into a lecherous egomaniac is not so much a journey as a joke. The great talents of Paul Verhoeven and his team are sadly wasted in this shallow exercise, giving more ammunition to the critics of modern Hollywood. I can hear the old studio bosses crying in despair in their graves (probably with an East European accent): ‘I don’t vant to vatch ze vonderful stunts – I vant to cry for ze corrupted hero.’"
Andrew L. Urban

"That fascinating concept of invisibility has beguiled us for years, and the possibilities under the awesome baton of director Paul Verhoeven are endless, particularly with the marvels of today's technologies. Verhoeven's Hollow Man is an awesome display of mind-boggling dazzling effects – from elusive, watery shadows to the actual extraordinary process when flesh and bone mutate and become invisible. These startling effects coupled with a dense orchestral score create a chilling mood, and are enough to tantalise us into a world of uncertainty. The social and moral issues are perhaps less effecting, as Sebastian's transition is not that of Dr Jekyl to Mr Hyde. Sebastian is an ego-maniac from the start; it would have been far more effective had we had seen his character change and watch his dark side grow as the temptations of power overwhelm him. Kevin Bacon is commendable in the role, impressing with his distinctive well-toned voice, yet I would have been interested to see an actor such as Jeremy Irons, whose dark side could preside and impose. Elizabeth Shue is terrific; she is our lifeline, the person with whom we can identify best. But the characterisations are pretty shallow and the scientists are oh so cool about the proceedings; it's not until the second half of the film that the emotions and responses become more credible. The concept of playing God, examining human behaviour when life goes beyond the structure of social and moral rules to me is the seductive area of contention, and that which exercises our minds. It's certainly the tale of a mad scientist, albeit not the one it could have been. It's haunting, at times gripping and blood flows aplenty. The effects are as complex as the genetic code from which we are made; for those alone, The Hollow Man is worth visiting."
Louise Keller

"Paul Verhoeven is among those Hollywood directors who's able to take mainstream genres (such as the sci-fi thriller) and inflect them in striking, personal ways. In Verhoeven's case, what comes through, beyond his filmmaking craft, is a heavy, jeering wit and a ferocious ambivalance. His movies are filled with brutal, gloating sex and violence, and while this clearly disgusts Verhoeven it just as clearly turns him on. While many movies combine art and trash in this way, Verhoeven's work is unusual in its sheer self-consciousness. Fascinated with itself and what it's doing, it's able to induce a similar queasy fascination in the viewer. Admittedly Hollow Man isn't anywhere near as provocative as the spectacular Starship Troopers - but despite a relatively conventional script, it's unmistakably a Verhoeven film, one which uses the theme of invisibility in half a dozen striking and characteristic ways. It's essentially a chamber piece - literally so, since most of the action takes place in a giant underground laboratory built of concrete and stainless steel. This cool, metallic, sealed world is a typical Verhoeven setting: however full of breasts and blood his movies get, they retain an elegant distance, as if the bodies of his characters were being put on display for purposes of science. Thus, in the scene where Sebastian first becomes invisible, his body disappears layer by layer, like an exhibit in a museum: first his skin peels off, then his internal organs vanish, till all that can be seen is his bare skeleton, which (as the title implies) is all this obnoxious would-be superman has at his core. The emptiness of the hero ties in with the film's Hitchcockian interest in voyeurism and point-of-view. As Verhoeven underlines for us, an invisible man is in roughly the position of a moviegoer: someone who can see, but can't himself be seen. But what does it mean to see from the perspective of an invisible (or hollow) man? How can we identify with a hero if we don't even know where (or who) he is?"
Jake Wilson

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HEAR Andrew L. Urban & Louise Keller talk about the film in Real Audio.

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

Read our DVD REVIEW

See Nick Roddick's interview with

PAUL VERHOEVEN

See the
VISIONSTREAM interview with Paul Vehoeven & Kevin Bacon

HOLLOW MAN (MA)
(US)

CAST: Elizabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin, Steve Altes, William Devane, Kim Dickens PRODUCERS: Alan Marshall, Douglas Wick

DIRECTOR: Paul Verhoeven

SCRIPT: Gary Scott Thompson, Andrew W. Marlowe,

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jost Vacano

EDITOR: Mark Goldblatt A.C.E.

MUSIC: Jerry Goldsmith

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Allan Cameron

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 24, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col Tristar Home Video

VIDEO RELEASE: March 7, 2001

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