Hollow Man – If you’re going to update The Invisible Man for modern moviegoers then you may have fun with the concept, mix in some decent special effects and generally heighten the megalomania that shone through in the fantastic old Universal classic. And if you’re going to do all that then you may as well put the material in the hands of Mr Paul Verhoeven, a man who has such a great track record in genre fare with the likes of Total Recall, Robocop and Starship Troopers. He doesn’t always make instant classics (*cough* Showgirls *cough*) but he always invests his movies with an entertaining mix of real talent and the best intentions in whatever direction he decides to take.
Instead of Claude Rains we get Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Caine this time around, the setting may have changed but the attitude towards the power of invisibility hasn’t. Caine is a top scientist, an arrogant genius loathed and tolerated by his colleagues for the results he gets and the way he gets them. His colleagues include the lovely Elisabeth Shue, who also used to be his lover, and James Brolin (who is now secretly in a relationship with Shue) along with a number of semi-familiar faces you suspect may not stick around long enough for any big finale. As is usually the case with these things, Caine offers himself as the human guinea pig for a successful invisibility agent/process that the team have been working on. All goes well until it’s time to regain his appearance. With a mixture of maddening side-effects (light irritates people who have “no” eyelids) and delusions of grandeur, Caine starts fooling around and using his liberating anonymity in a way that leads to more and more abuses of power until those around him realise just how far he’s gone and how he must be brought back to visibility or stopped from fleeing from the lab and out into the big, wide world.
What that all means is that we get some scientific gubbins for the first 20 minutes or so, alongside some impressive FX work that may already be showing signs of age but that generally holds up well, and then we get to see the playful side of invisibility before the menace becomes apparent. Bacon, who despite the invisibility of his character did actually have to work a lot on the movie but usually in a green suit so as to be painted out afterwards, is great in a role that he attackes with relish. His character starts off arrogant and confrontational in quite a fun way and is helped by the fact that, like it or not, he’s right about a number of things. When he starts to warp and make the wrong decisions, we’ve already gone along with him during some minor fun moments so it makes it easier to be entertained by his more dangerous antics, even as things turn deadly. He’s a charismatic baddie, basically, and aren’t they always the best ones?
Shue and Brolin may not have quite as much to play with but do very well with what they have. Everyone onscreen, in fact, performs with admirable gusto and simply has fun in a movie that’s designed for just that purpose. Despite his limited screentime, it’s also good to see William Devane onscreen, an actor I always enjoy watching and who never disappoints.
If the latter half of the movie starts to feel like a chain of sequences all involving various ways to “show” Bacon then that’s something many people might despise. Personally, I think it’s all a blast from start to finish and the reveals are fun and well executed by the effects team. There are one or two scenes that push things into uncomfortable territory but they’re actually pretty well-judged and edited (either straight away or after judging reactions from audiences) to provide a better idea of just how bad our baddie is while then allowing the audience to carry on to the next moment of less disturbing entertainment.
It’s what you’d expect from a take on “The Invisible Man” directed by Paul Verhoeven. Your personal taste will tell you, even before you see the movie, whether you think that’s a good or a bad thing.
The R2 DVD features a fantastic, informative commentary from director Verhoeven and star Bacon (with comments from the writer too), an isolated score with comments from Jerry Goldsmith, a smattering of featurettes and some deleted scenes discussed by the director. Topped off with some storyboard to screen comparisons and filmographies, it’s a decent package and Verhoeven is a great host.
Hollow Man 2 – If you finished watching Hollow Man and thought “you know, I can’t wait until they make a straight-to-DVD sequel to that with even less famous faces and a lot less money” then you’re in luck. This dire film has Christian Slater’s name highlighted in the credit list but his performance is really just a lacklustre vocal performance for approximately a quarter of the movie’s running time.
Slater plays an angry soldier, turned invisible and enjoying the freedom it allows but also dreading the side-effects he knows will destroy his body. There is, however, a buffer designed by Laura Regan’s character that should stop the cellular damage so he aims to take Regan prisoner and force her to help him. Luckily, a detective, played by Peter Facinelli, is assigned to protect Regan and catches on quick to the unseen threat.
Directed by Claudio Fah, this movie simply stinks to high heaven. There’s no other way to put it. It’s a perfect example of how not to make a low-budget sequel with it’s poor cast, plodding pacing in between unexciting set-pieces and effects that are worse than anything seen in the original, a movie that came 6 years before this one.
This is one of those movies that makes it tough to draw out anything resembling a reasonable, proper review. There’s absolutely nothing of note here. It’s not even laughably bad, it’s just bad in the way that it’s full of characters you don’t care about played by actors who clearly feel the same way thrown into scenes of danger that have no thrills within them.
I could pick apart lots more but, to be totally honest, it’s no fun. Like the film itself.
The R2 DVD has a couple of featurettes and storyboard comparison. Quite frankly, that’s more than I thought it would have or deserve. Still, nothing here to make watching the movie any more enjoyable.
DIRECTOR: PAUL VERHOEVEN/CLAUDIO FAH
CAST: KEVIN BACON, ELISABETH SHUE, JAMES BROLIN, WILLIAM DEVANE, GREG GRUNBERG/CHRISTIAN SLATER, LAURA REGAN, PETER FACINELLI
RUNTIME: 112 MINS APPROX/91 MINS APPROX
Hollow Man Film Rating:
Hollow Man DVD Rating:
Hollow Man 2 Film Rating:
Hollow Man 2 DVD Rating: