Hollow Man (2000)
Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage for TIFF’s Flesh + Blood: The Films of Paul Verhoeven which runs from January 24th to April 4th at TIFF Bell Lightbox. For more information on upcoming TIFF film series visit http://tiff.net and follow TIFF on Twitter at @TIFF_NET.
The long-loved tale of the Invisible Man is turned on its head by Hollow Man, from director Paul Verhoeven. This specific incantation tells the story of Sebastian (Kevin Bacon) and Linda (Elisabeth Shue), two top scientists that are at the top of their fields who also have perfected the perfect serum for making living creates invisible. It works well on their test subjects, the subjects being gorillas, but they don’t have permission to test it on humans yet. That doesn’t stop Sebastian, as he convinces his easily persuaded team to let him be the guinea pig. It works, but now the problem is bringing Sebastian back. As countless tries to make him whole again fall short, he starts to lose what little sanity he had left, and becomes a perverse, wretched sort of monster. The team must stop him, at all costs…
Unlike most of the accomplished director’s films, Verhoeven directs Hollow Man as if he’s holding a grudge. Not even Showgirls had that.
To say that Hollow Man has a turnaround midway through the film might be a bit of an understatement, although it’s not your normal kind of turnaround. Throughout the film, Verhoeven keeps this sort of cynical vibe hanging in the air. Perhaps he was trying to mold the structure of Sebastian, melt it down and develop it into smog that would engulf everything and anything in its path? Unlike most of the accomplished director’s films, he directs Hollow Man as if he’s holding a grudge. Not even Showgirls had that. He’s been given the keys to a big-budget version of a classic tale, but what of the structure in question?
The screenplay by Andrew W. Marlowe (Air Force One, creator of TV’s Castle) is all but trustworthy. It’s almost as if the studio didn’t have time to give it a polish, or even a suitable second look from other writers, and slapped this on the table sending it on its way like it had an expiration date. “Film this, or it’s going to explode on us all.” The aftermath proves as such, but the point is this was not a script worthy enough of sending through the production phase. Perhaps Verhoeven knew that, felt that, and directed it with said resentment. A wild, highly improbably theory I have is that Verhoeven had to deal with dealer’s choice (the dealer being the studio) for this follow-up project to Starship Troopers. Maybe that was part of the deal. “You direct something you want, of course it’ll end up being a classic, but we get to choose your next film.” Like I said, it’s highly improbable but at least it offers up a feeling of comfort.
To say that Hollow Man has a turnaround midway through the film might be a bit of an understatement, although it’s not your normal kind of turnaround.
Verhoeven is no stranger to directing schlock, but this is the kind of schlock that just has the meanest of spirits. Before the turnaround, everyone’s doing their job selfishly, and the results only bring out their inner raw primates. Then when the turnaround hits, when Sebastion-the-jerk gets shot in the head by Sebastian-the-raging-hormonal-psychopath, it just goes from bad to almost vulgar. Despite the visual effects (which are impressive for its time) and near-gorgeous set decorations, this is very much a character driven film, and that’s the main problem. While Sebastian has an excuse since he’s the antagonist (therefore giving Bacon the freedom to have some disgusting ‘fun’ with his role), every other character in this film is just utterly unlikeable. “Let’s try something out here, Veroeven. Everybody in the film is a jerk. The audience won’t have anyone to root for, and therefore nobody will care about their horrible fates.” “You mean like the characters I had in Showgirls?” “…No.” “Oh.” Yeah, the theory’s kicking in again, but come on.
[notification type=”star”]38/100 ~ AWFUL. Verhoeven is no stranger to directing schlock, but this is the kind of schlock that just has the meanest of spirits. [/notification]