Hollow Man

Sebastian Caine is a brilliant scientist. He not only plays God, but refers to himself as such. Working with an equally brilliant team of research scientists deep inside a secret laboratory, Caine has developed a serum that will change the way people look at each other, literally.

hollowmanWhen we first meet Caine and his group, they have already succeeded in the first phase of their experiment. They have rendered numerous lab animals invisible. Caine’s serum will reverse the process. After testing the serum on an invisible gorilla named Isabelle, Caine feels secure enough to advance to phase two: human testing.

Welcome to the world of “Hollow Man,” an extremely riveting horror-thriller from director Paul Verhoeven. Thanks to special and visual effects advances, “Hollow Man” is unlike any invisible man film you have ever seen. Verhoeven and his visual effects technicians revel in the ability to literally strip away the individual layers of a human body until there’s nothing left.

This provides for a giddy, visceral experience, one not recommended for those with weak stomachs. This isn’t your old man’s “Invisible Man.” It’s a cool and hip invisible man, with some of the most amazing and jaw dropping special effects I have seen in a horror film. People and animals don’t just disappear in this film, they dissolve into nothingness. Anatomy students will appreciate the detail.

I applaud Verhoeven for going for the jugular. “Hollow Man” is vicious, but that’s the nature of this beast. Caine is a man driven by his own ego, an ego that becomes extremely dangerous when he’s rendered invisible. At first Caine maintains, reeling in his desire to stretch his invisible legs. When it becomes apparent that his reversal will take longer than anticipated, Caine leaves the underground lab for a little sightseeing.

Andrew W. Marlowe’s script is smart enough not to rely on cheap jokes to pass time. Caine’s little road trip provides him with the opportunity to spook some kids and check out a naked neighbor, but a lesser director and writer would have done a whole reel of easy set-ups. Instead, the filmmakers put the emphasis on the scientists as they attempt to reverse Caine’s invisibility.

Bacon is convincing as Caine, a man so driven by his own success that he’s willing to put everything on the line rather than lose it. Bacon makes it easy for us to understand Caine’s rationale. There are many layers to Bacon’s performance, from dedicated scientist to monster. He skillfully peels away each layer.

Elizabeth Shue conveys the confusion of a woman torn between brilliance and love. As Linda McKay, fellow scientist and former girlfriend of Caine, Shue is smart. You can feel the internal tug-of-war she’s going through, attracted by Caine’s brilliance yet scared by his obsession.

McKay fares better in bed with Matthew Kensington, another scientist played by Josh Brolin. Brolin is constantly growing as an actor, and is quite good here. I especially liked Kim Dickens as a veterinarian who disapproves of Caine and his methods, and Mary Randle as a technician with more than enough attitude.

The cast is extremely likeable, and manage not to get lost in the special effects. All of the characters are well defined, allowing us to know who they are instead of what they are.

Verhoeven’s trademark of mixing sex and violence is heavy in “Hollow Man.” After he’s rendered invisible, Caine uses his new found freedom to take advantage of a technician and a neighbor. The technician’s seduction is disturbing because of who the victim is, and the playful way Caine caresses one of her breasts.

The violence is extreme, including abuse towards animals (a dog is killed off screen, a lab rat gets munched). The effects are graphic but necessarily so. The last thing the world needed was another mainstream, safe invisible man movie. Verhoeven and Marlowe understand that and do everything in their power to avoid the cliches.

Marlowe’s screenplay does falter in moments (some of the logic is silly, like the use of heat sensitive glasses during a chase scene), but Verhoeven’s pace is so tight that these little lapses fail to sabotage the overall viewing experience.

Jerry Goldsmith’s score is pivotal in maintaining the film’s suspense, and Mark Goldblatt’s editing is razor sharp. The film is extremely solid, especially the visual effects which are extremely convincing.

I can’t recommend “Hollow Man” to everyone. It’s graphic in its depiction of the process (not only do we get to see Kevin Bacon naked, but also get to see his innards), but delivers the goods for anyone looking for an adult thriller.


Kevin brings home the Bacon in Invisible Man thriller


Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg, Joey Slotnick, Mary Randle, William Devane in a film directed by Paul Verhoeven. Rated R. 114 Minutes.


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