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may be empty, but it's definitely pretty
by Anhoni Patel on Aug 27, 2004
If you weren't accountable for any social or legal mores, what would you do? If you became invisible, would you go on a voyeuristic rampage -- eaves drop on conversations, spy on your friends or strangers in their bedrooms, steal from your favorite stores, etc.? In his latest film, Hollow Man, sci-fi director Paul Verhoeven attempts to address these issues but comes up empty handed.
Verhoeven, known for his depiction of fantastical technologies and psychological thrillers, seems to want to create something out of nothing. A post-Footloose Kevin Bacon plays the arrogant, megalomaniac, genius scientist Dr. Sebastian Caine. His team of doctors and technicians, consisting of the chirpy Linda McKay (Elisabeth Shue) and the buff Matthew Kensington (Josh Brolin), has created a serum for achieving invisibility; more importantly, they seem to have just cracked the key to a reversal-serum. Although these genetic engineers are supposed to be the best and brightest in their fields, for some reason, they are bullied into allowing Caine to test the formula on himself (Hey, if Jonas Salk can do it, so can I!).
Contributing to the mistrust of their professional validity are their unbelievable lifestyles and physical attributes: no scientist looks that good or makes that much money. As an actor, Bacon is more convincing as a cocky bastard than a scientist, and Shue is better off playing a prostitute. Although several side characters, Janice Walton (Mary Randle), Carter Abbey (Greg Grunberg) and Frank Chase (Joey Slotnick) spurt funny wise cracks, the conversation usually falls flat. Most of the actors' lines seem forced and emotionally devoid, plus the chemistry s.ply isn't present during their interactions.
These are just some of the many loose strings Verhoeven leaves dangling before you in his film. If you tug on one, the whole plot might unravel. The only tight aspect of Hollow Man is its special effects. Verhoeven delivers on his sci-fi panache, and the film is technically masterful. The scenes that focus on the process and states of invisibility--like a very graphic, memorable biology lesson--are visually stunning gems. Unfortunately, there's nothing to support the movie once you take away the effects. Hollow Man is lopsided and it doesn't have a sufficient human aspect to give it enough balance. Of course, when Dr. Caine first becomes invisible, he turns to obvious tricks and games, but there isn't enough exploration into his psyche or his antics. Furthermore, there's a very strange sexual chemistry between Caine and McKay (i.e. rape fantasies and aggressive sexual come-ons) that takes 'sexual harassment' to another level and is left too open ended.
Granted, this is not an intellectual's movie nor does it pretend to be so. It's a sci-fi thriller that does what it's supposed to do fairly well. There are enough thrills (as well as several chills) interspersed throughout the film to hold our attention, and the scenes of turning invisible and regaining visibility are the clinchers that are worth sitting through the remaining 114 minutes of clichéd dialogue.
2 hours and 10 minutes
by Anhoni Patel on Aug 27, 2004