By Christian DiMartino
What do you say about Paul Verhoeven?
Personally, I love the guy because of how much he does not care. He’s made a handful of wonderfully over-the-top science fiction films (Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Robocop), and some major kink-fests (Basic Instinct, Showgirls). Even in some of those science fiction films, he manages to incorporate the science with the kink, and even if he isn’t the screenwriter, the man knows what kind of movie he wants to make, and he makes it. Take his last film, Elle, which followed a woman who is raped, and enjoyed it so much so that she tries to stage another raping. Only Verhoeven could’ve made that movie, and made it work.
Hollow Man is a very, purely, thoroughly Verhoeven film. Don’t get me wrong, it is not necessarily… good. In my eyes though, it’s so nutty and trashy and stupid, but richly entertaining. It works like a B-movie charm. Also, keep this in mind: do you ever watch a movie and wonder how it didn’t receive a single Oscar nomination? Well, guess what? Hollow Man, which was critically annihilated, is an Oscar nominated film. Which sounds silly, but I’ll get to why it isn’t in a bit.
The film follows a group of scientists who experiment on the invisibility of gorillas. They finally reach their goals, but in the eyes of the government, it isn’t good enough (Gee, you try it). The group is led by Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon, in a different role than you may be used to), an arrogant and… well, deeply disturbed, but more on that later, scientist who, as a last ditch effort to prove their worth, volunteers to undergo the procedure. So, the invisibility here isn’t what it sounds like. When you first see this procedure happening on a gorilla, the gorilla is going from invisible to visible, and here we see the veins and what not as the gorilla comes back to vision. With Sebastian, it is the reverse, making it have the appearance of decomposing.
Caine survives, but unable to return to his usual form. Which of course bothers Caine… until he realizes that he can fully take advantage of this situation. First order of business: he rapes a woman who lives in the building across from his apartment. Um… okay. Second, he will continue to torment his fellow scientists. Third, he will stalk and harass his former lover, Linda (Elisabeth Shue), who happens to be on the research team with Sebastian and Matthew (Josh Brolin), who she is also seeing. Let’s just say, Sebass doesn’t take this information lightly.
Hollow Man is a trashy film, just the way Verhoeven likes it. Here he meshes the science fiction and the kinky to… obviously strange results, but, in my eyes, undeniably intriguing results. The dialogue is pretty riddled with cliches, with every one of the scientist characters speaking as if they’ve watched just one too many movies like this (and of course, the government will stop the funding, so let’s give’em one last hoorah!). The science in it is also pretty stupid, but then again, so am I, so I won’t dock too many points there.
One… okay, many, may consider Hollow Man to be a terrible film. Trust me, I would not fight you on this. Yet… I can’t resist it. Bacon’s performance is just too much fun. Even when you can’t see him, you can hear him, and the joy he must have felt. The film is so nutty that I couldn’t help but be entertained. For the record, I felt this way the first time I saw this film too- it is, and probably always will be, a guilty pleasure. It’s lurid science fiction nonsense, but it never pretends its anything more, or anything less.
Also, do not forget, this is, in fact, an Oscar nominated movie. A thought that may elicit laughter, but honestly… it should have won that Oscar. Call me crazy, but the film was nominated for Best Visual Effects, and I have to say, even 20 years later, these effects are still really impressive. They’re striking not just because this was the year 2000, but also, they just so happen to be really cool… and look it too. I looked for a flaw in them this time, and to be honest, I could not see one. They’re unique, to say the least. Enjoy Hollow Man or loathe it to bits (an argument could be made for both), there’s a good chance we’ll all see eye to eye on the visual effects.