2000, R, 114 min. Directed by Paul Verhoeven. Starring Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin, Greg Grunberg, Kim Dickens, William Devane, Rhona Mitra, Steve Altes, Joey Slotnick, Mary Jo Randle.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 4, 2000
It's the loaded question that has titillated libidinal teenage males since time immemorial: What if you were invisible? Wouldn't that be cool? Well, yeah, but you wouldn't know it from Hollow Man, an effects-heavy take on that old standby that wallows in the more prurient aspects of the mini-genre like a pig in slop (or, more pointedly, like a 15-year-old in a women's locker room) and is impressive only for the too-frequent glimpses of Bacon's Flashdancing bare bottom. I suppose we're lucky to see much of the actor at all, though. Verhoeven and his special-effects and CGI teams have reduced Bacon to playing the ultimate reactive role: As an eccentric D.C. think-tank sci-guy, he volunteers as a guinea pig in some sort of very arcane, very vague experiment in rendering matter invisible. Before you can say “Hey, isn't that Claude Rains?” poor Bacon is not all there and can only be seen when foreign objects (dirt, water, blood) cling to his naked skin. Since the actor had to be on the set day in and day out for CGI-scanning sessions and to play to the other actors in the film, this wasn't a walk in the CGI park à la Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Still, fans of Bacon's past work will be perhaps not so thrilled to realize that most of his performance here consists of wraith-like non-movements, all effects-work smoke and mirrors and precious little of the actor's ever-wizening face (which with its deepening crinkles and jutting cheekbones should have him essaying a midlife Keith Richards if the opportunity ever arises). There is very little of what could be called a plot to Hollow Man, and what there is is muddy. Bacon, as scientist Sebastian Caine, runs afoul of both the Pentagon, his ex-lover Linda (Shue), and his own eroding mental state when he submits to the invisibility injections. After some very colorful special effects of Sebastian's now-you-see-them, now-you-don't veins and musculature, the film quickly, irrevocably devolves into Caine spying on the ladies, groping the ladies, and generally making a cad of himself every 15 minutes or so. Verhoeven's none-too-subtle point -- that even the greatest among us can be brought as low as schoolboys by unchecked power -- is as old as storytelling itself, and the film is weighed down by an increasingly juvenile sense of humor that makes the whole shebang that much more difficult to take seriously. Really, now. When this not-quiet-creepy fiend from the lab-pit spends his days playing boogly-eyes with passing kids and his nights pawing any and all available female flesh, well, what has horror come to? And this from the man who gave us both The Fourth Man and Robocop. (And yes, I hear you at the back: Showgirls, too.) Not nearly as frightening as finding a crouton lodged in the back of your throat and your water glass empty, Hollow Man is a boisterous, gooey miscue. It tries too hard to make you squirm, and in the end it's much ado about … nothing.