Hollow Man

Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Category: Thriller

I had only ever seen this once before, when it first came out, and only because the one and only Paul Verhoeven directed it. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have bothered. For no other reason than the trailers didn't really do anything for me.

Verhoeven is an intriguing fellow. For me, he seems to possess two separate styles of filmmaking, and both couldn't look any more different than the other. The different style technique also seems to correlate between the two genre's he's most familiar with, science fiction and thrillers. With the sci-fi genre  (Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers), he uses a specific type of camera, lens and look to those films. Simple, stationary and very effective when shooting action. When he's making films in the thriller genre (Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Hollow Man and Black Book), he uses a different type of camera, lens and with a much more freestyle approach incorporating a lot of steadicam shots that you wouldn't find in his sci-fi films. Less stylized and less in feeling like a Paul Verhoeven film in general. But hey, that's just my opinion. So let's move on.

I must admit, this wasn't nearly as bad or nearly as boring as I thought it'd be. For the most part, it plays really well as a straight up psychological thriller, just with a whole lot of badass special effects work thrown in. Kevin Bacon being cast as the severely conceded Dr. Sebastian Caine is probably the best thing Hollow Man has going for it too. He's utterly brilliant and pure fucking evil as the asshole scientist with a God complex. What I find fascinating is that he's not even listed as the star of this, Elizabeth Shue is, which makes no sense to me at all. This must have been after she won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, because I couldn't possibly imagine how or why Elizabeth Shue gets top billing over Kevin Bacon in a film this big. I mean, Kevin Bacon "is" Hollow Man for Christ's sake!

Basic story goes as follows. Brilliant yet utterly despicable scientist is working on an invisibility serum for the military, fully funded by the government. When he finally figures out the missing piece to the puzzle after years of failure, he decides to hold that bit of info from the backers and decides to test it on himself first before they get there hands on it. He feels that once they get what they want, he and his team of scientists will be of no more use to them and his life long work will be taken away from him. The serum works, and he becomes invisible. At first, it's fun as he teases and taunts his team for kicks. And as expected, there are things not taken into consideration beforehand. Like, if you're invisible, then so are your eyelids, meaning you get no chance to close your eyes. The light hurts, and trying to sleep is virtually impossible unless you completely darken the room. But there are also side effects. The serum seems to make you go slightly insane as each day goes by. For someone as cocky (with an underlying evil waiting to escape) as Sebastian Caine, that's a very bad thing and before long, he's turning into the monster everybody knew he was capable of becoming. As he puts it, when you're invisible, you can get away with anything and nobody can stop you.

Lame marketing campaign and poster work aside, this is a really badass and solid thriller. It's a pretty much nonstop thrill ride from beginning to end with a frenetic pace, never slowing down long enough to bore you. That's a very good thing indeed. Verhoeven knows how to cut out the fluff and get to the meat of the story, and he knows we don't care about some lame romantic subplot or unnecessary backstory, we want to see Caine do some fucked up shit when he's invisible and boy does he ever. I was actually surprised at how far they went with that premise. You know, we all have that fantasy of what we'd do or which girl's bedroom we'd sneak into if we were invisible to see her naked. Only here, they take it so many steps further and in some cases, you're kind of left shocked.

The CGI work in here is also phenomenal. Yea, there are a few scenes here and there that are questionable, but for the most part it's pretty damn impressive. I mean, they go all out for the effects work in here and I don't remember the Oscars for this year, but I wouldn't be surprised if it walked away with awards for the effects work in this. Another aspect that I dearly loved is that when there is any form of violence, no matter how big or small, Verhoeven ups the anty ten fold. This is Verhoeven we're talking about and we know when it comes to onscreen violence, the guy has never let us down and he certainly doesn't here. It's awesome, and bloody, and violent. Just the way we like it.

Kevin Bacon is awesome and brilliant as the evil Sebastian Caine, and Hollow Man is bloody, violent, and goes further than you expect it to go. I woulda preferred Verhoeven's other stylistic camerawork more notable in his science fiction / action films, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment one bit.


  1. I think what was jarring for most people is that all of Verhoeven's other sci-fi flicks had a intelligent satirical subtext to it them but this one didn't have much else to say other than if you turned a man invisible he'd probably go nuts.

    It's the script that lets it down. It needed a better couple of protagonists to go up against Caine.

    That said, despite all its flaws Verhoeven sticks in enough crazy violence and special effects to make it a technical achievement. I've watched this a couple of times and I'll probably watch it a few more too.

    1. Sorry Jack! I thought I had replied to this long ago, but looks like I didn't. I guess I did in my head? lol.

      I hear ya. It's a solid sci-fi/thriller, yet compared to his other sci-fi films it is a bit of a letdown. Which isn't really fair since he has made worse films of course and he can't always make the same kind of film, but we as fans just can't help comparing. And I didn't think about it until you mentioned it, but you're right. It would have been cool to see him go up against someone other than his ex-girlfriend. lol. But to be honest, I had fun with it. It was never boring, Bacon was awesome and something was always surprising me, once I got past the initial uneasiness that this didn't look or feel like a Verhoeven film, which only lasted about 20 minutes.

  2. Why does that poster look like Jacob's Ladder?

    Yea, I'm a fan of this one as well. Not sure what the critical consensus is, but I remember it getting sort of shit on back when it came out. I didn't really get into it until the 2nd time I saw it. You're right...he does some fucked up things, and, as usual, the social commentary is disturbing. Are you sure the serum had side effects, though? I didn't pick up on that. I just thought he was a prick, and once he became invisible, he realized he could be an even bigger prick.

    1. Yea, there was a whole thing about the side effects because it was doing the same thing to the guerrilla that they had tested it on previously, only not as severe as Sebastian's case because I think he always had this underlying evilness just waiting to come out.

      And yea, I kinda remember it getting shit on too. There are some things I think could have been done better, like the design of the title and credits. It just screams 90's to me. lol, and it makes it look dated. I wouldn't have given Shue top billing and I would have tried to find a better way to market it than the way they ultimately did. I think it's a solid thriller with some outstanding effects for the most part. And Bacon just rules in this.

    2. Jack is absolutely right. The flick lacks the subtext of Verhoven's best work, so it is automatically at a disadvantage. That said, it's a solid movie, it's just a tad disappointing when you consider the rest of the man's work.

      RE: Shue's top billing. She DOES get more screen time than Bacon (which is easy since Bacon's invisible for 80% of the movie), so maybe that was the reason.

  3. I have to agree, this doesn't look or feel like a Paul Verhoeven film at all. So right away you're kinda thrown off a bit. But, he had already made Basic Instinct and Showgirls by this point, so I shouldn't be too surprised I guess. I think it's just because I dig his sci-fi stuff more. Take his name out of the equation, and it's definitely a solid thriller and very entertaining, if for no other reason than to see Kevin Bacon go insane.

    Yea, I suppose that would be why Shue got her name over Bacons. I just don't see that as a very good selling point from a marketing stand point. lol. It's a movie about Kevin Bacon character becoming invisible and going insane and he "is" Hollow Man, yet they put Elizabeth Shue's name first. She's a great actress and all, but her name first on the marquee isn't going to get me rushing to see this.

  4. Thought this wasn't too bad. A couple of missteps but Kevin Bacon was excellent. He's always good as the villain (for example, Sleepers)

    1. Agreed! Bacon is always great as a villain. I remember being surprised he was cast as the main baddie in X-Men: First Class and wondering if they had made the right decision. But once I saw it, I just couldn't imagine anyone else in that role. He was great.