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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.47%
Worth A Look: 17.99%
Average: 28.78%
Pretty Bad31.65%
Total Crap: 15.11%

9 reviews, 85 user ratings

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Hollow Man
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by Andrew Howe

"Nothing can save Bacon this time"
2 stars

To fans of action-packed, effects-laden science-fiction blockbusters, Paul Verhoeven is a household name. Three of his efforts (Starship Troopers, Total Recall, RoboCop) represent pinnacles of the genre, and even his mainstream failures (Basic Instinct) are invariably worth the time it takes to dissect them. The extent to which the success of a film can be laid at his door is open to debate – he doesn’t write the scripts or personally create the eye-popping effects – but, going purely on his track record, I’d rather have him at the helm than the likes of Roland Emmerich.

Unfortunately, said record has taken a nosedive with the release of Hollow Man, a Kevin Bacon vehicle which takes an intriguing concept and transforms it into something intolerably mundane. Given the reasons for its failure, however, I would suggest that the only thing Verhoeven is guilty of is putting wads of cash ahead of his better judgement.

The script focuses on a government-funded think-tank charged with solving the mysteries of invisibility, and an arresting opening sequence attests to their success. Unfortunately, there is the little matter of reversing the process to attend to, and this proves to be their major stumbling block. Through a suitably unlikely series of events the head of the project, Sebastian Caine (Bacon), offers himself to the gods of science, but the team’s inability to return him to normal sees him swap dedication for derangement. When a momentary lapse of reason results in the perpetration of a rather dark deed, the stage is set for a few rounds of murder and mayhem, washed down with the usual Verhoeven standards (jetting blood and major trauma feature prominently, though there’s a notable absence of amputations).

The major problem with this film should be evident from the above synopsis. Once you strip away the trimmings it is, at its core, little more than a high-tech slasher flick, and that’s not something to which a scriptwriter should aspire. It didn’t have to be that way, however, for the first half of the film takes a half-hearted swipe at something deeper, and if the scriptwriters (Gary Thompson and Andrew Marlowe) had possessed the requisite creativity it might have made a crackling psychological drama.

Donning my professorial spectacles for a moment, I would suggest that it is our physical being which anchors us to reality. For all our talk of higher consciousness, these constructs of bone and sinew go a long way towards making us who we are. The concept has been explored by such fine works as Frederick Pohl’s Man Plus, but unfortunately the best Hollow Man can come up with is to have Bacon scream “I can’t take it anymore!” (for no apparent reason, I might add) before he goes over the edge. I should make it clear that this is not a case of the script abiding by the “show-not-tell” doctrine, but rather a simple refusal to explore what Ivan Reitman and Chevy Chase (quoted in William Goldman’s memo on the making of Memoirs of an Invisible Man) refer to as “the loneliness of invisibility” in any depth.

To be fair, the script does attempt to canvass the voyeuristic potential of invisibility. I would suggest that spying on lust objects in varying stages of undress is the first thing your average red-blooded male would do when presented with such a gift, and to its credit the script does not shy away from this somewhat perverted notion (Verhoeven is on familiar ground, since his last Dutch film, The Fourth Man, practically wrote the book on the use of keyholes for nefarious purposes). One skin-crawling scene set in a women’s lavatory is suitably unsettling, and the film’s depiction of non-consensual foreplay is gut-wrenchingly intense. It’s a metaphor for everyone who has ever stood on the outside looking in, knowing full well that they can look but they better not touch, and serves as a signpost for what might have been. However, once again the script refuses to explore the psychological ramifications of these acts, choosing instead to head full steam into some rather predictable territory.

To make matters worse, the film is anchored by a trio of rote performances in the service of flat, lifeless characters. Bacon is in danger of being remembered as the perennial bridesmaid - he’s made a career out of providing memorable support, but lead roles which realise his full potential are few and far between. Here he’s hamstrung by an inability to display emotion through his facial expressions (think Darth Vader without James Earl Jones’ memorable vocal delivery), which ensures that his natural screen presence becomes as incorporeal as his physical being. In addition, Caine is a classic mad scientist (you expect Igor to slink out of the shadows at any moment), and any character development is submerged beneath a succession of irrational actions which occur for no better reason than to keep the plot motoring along. Prior to his metamorphoses he’s little more than a boring egghead with a dash of charm, and once he slides into insanity he replaces what little affability he possessed with garden-variety derangement.

However, he’s got nothing on Josh Brolin’s character, who happily provides stereotype number two in the form of the chisel-jawed hero. Brolin is likeable, but his two-dimensional role ensures that his part in the proceedings is eminently forgettable.

Elisabeth Shue, on the other hand, is memorable for the wrong reasons. Stereotype number three is a sassy lab assistant who finds inner strength when she needs it the most, but Shue seems unable to find a facial expression which is appropriate for the occasion. A fine performance in Leaving Las Vegas led me to believe that she possessed some measure of talent, but here her constant grinning becomes a major source of annoyance (at times she’s like a second cousin to Marty the Moose), and her inability to believably portray the effects of fear ensures that she never manages to convince the viewer that she’s really in any danger. To be fair, her character is as shallow as the others (some of the lines she’s forced to deliver near the end would not be out of place in a Schwarzenegger flick), and there are times when she’s refreshingly exuberant, but it’s not enough to save her from earning a large black mark on her acting resume.

Surprisingly, the quality of the acting in the support roles is actually rather good, and what’s more the four remaining members of Bacon’s lab staff are likeable individuals. However, the fact that they start dropping like flies while our forgettable heroes walk unscathed through the slaughter is yet another testament to the misguided scripting and casting.

Verhoeven contributes little to the proceedings, but then most of his successes were painted on considerably wider canvasses. His forte is big-screen action, but Hollow Man features little in the way of high-powered weaponry and futuristic landscapes. When you’re handed a script which features running, screaming and a few token explosions as its centrepiece there’s not much you can do besides grit your teeth, roll cameras and take solace in your burgeoning bank balance.

Most of the rave quotes which appeared in the newspaper advertisements for this film centred on the effects, and I see no reason not to add to them – they are, in a word, amazing. Suspending your disbelief has never been easier, and there are moments which will take the breath away (or would have, if the creators of the trailer hadn’t seen fit to spoil every single one of them for us in advance). However, these days CGI wizardry is par for the course, and if the best thing you can say about a movie is “Hey, nice effects!” then it’s faint praise indeed.

In an age when the summer blockbuster seems to be giving way to character-driven pieces, Hollow Man is exactly what the cinema-going public doesn’t deserve. It has no aspirations to be anything more than another effects-laden exercise in mediocrity, relying on pre-release hype to separate us from our hard-earned readies, and represents yet another insult to our combined intelligence.

We can only hope that its critical failure will ensure that everyone involved thinks twice before they put cash above their credibility in future, for empty promises have a hollow ring indeed.

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originally posted: 10/22/00 13:04:13
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell dull sadistic crap watch the invisible man instead 1 stars
1/19/14 Luis Paz Awful, awful movie. The scientists in this film have to be the stupidest people ever. 1 stars
10/23/09 Gangster21 Thank you for having the courage to resign, and to bring this scandalous behaviour to light 5 stars
9/21/09 Vrachah,avromView my complete profile This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects o 5 stars
8/30/08 Shaun Wallner Well Made! 4 stars
4/11/08 R.W. Welch Nifty F/X. Little else of interest. 3 stars
3/02/08 Pamela White suspense with no reason 2 stars
2/11/08 Mark Great movie, violance, nudity and a suspense, I loved it... 5 stars
1/27/07 action movie fan a phenomenon today as well! good invisible man update, one of the best of 2000 4 stars
12/27/06 William Goss An admittedly entertaining hunk of B-grade cheese with superb effects. 3 stars
7/20/06 faraz khan brilliant fiction 5 stars
12/28/05 Sugarfoot The perfect root for the bad guy movie, afterall Kevin Bacon is the only one who can act... 3 stars
8/11/05 ES it's good, its cool, oops it all falls apart, tsk, tsk 2 stars
6/10/05 Indrid Cold Something like this would have been a phenomenon 30 years ago, but it totally sucks now. 2 stars
1/31/05 New Jersey Rules One of the shittiest movies, ever. 1 stars
10/24/04 LUCAS awesome 5 stars
8/27/04 American Slasher Goddess It's decent with some good F/X 3 stars
1/15/04 Samuel Actuallt, a pretty good movie and some good effects 4 stars
1/07/04 John pointless - too bad 1 stars
11/25/03 homer J. Simpson It could have been great, what were you thinking people, elizabeth should have been naked 2 stars
11/04/03 jason Rhona Mitra's nude action was explosive 5 stars
10/01/03 Jinnvisible More like the invisible pervert,,man gains invisibility & turns knickersniffer 1 stars
9/16/03 Charles Tatum Great special effects in a big piece of sci-fi cheese 4 stars
8/04/03 Double G im watching it right now so far it sucks 1 stars
5/06/03 John Bale Great special Fx but pervy and nerdy script makes this teenage fodder. 2 stars
4/29/03 Jin Almost as shitty as Wild Things. Acting was atrocious. 2 stars
3/22/03 Jack Sommersby Vile stuff with nary a whisper of imagination. 1 stars
12/10/02 Garbo Yau Mun this film was great 5 stars
8/05/02 KMG HOLLOW HEAD 3 stars
5/15/02 Blake This movie was okay but it had too much profanity. 4 stars
3/01/02 Andrew Jarret It was crappy, it will be better if they make the raping scene longer and her naked 2 stars
2/28/02 Alan Smithee Starts out good, quickly turns unbelievably dumb. Ms. Shue doesn't get naked either...... 2 stars
2/27/02 Sklorsh Could have been much better - More boobs 2 stars
2/25/02 Jenny Tullwartz STIR OF ECHOES, WILD THINGS, now this - Will Kevin Bacon ever get out of purgatory? 1 stars
1/16/02 David A. Interesting. Also, I loved the joke about Superman and Wonder Woman. 4 stars
12/01/01 Scottish Kilt Starts well, then becomes too predictable, and turns into utter pish. 2 stars
11/14/01 Mike Good effects. Tired story. Crap out ending. 2 stars
10/31/01 Monster W. Kung Good effects, but the script blows. First part OK, the rest is trash. 2 stars
10/16/01 Mr. Hat An awesome gem for the first hour and 15 minutes, but the rest sort of weighs it down. 4 stars
5/05/01 The Moorhen I can't believe I bought this. Rhona Mitra (shower chick) is the only good bit. 2 stars
4/24/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) Starts Sci-Fi thriller, ends Slasher Flick. That concept usually works better in reverse. 3 stars
4/22/01 sequoia if you wnat an exciting movie with a great plot......see something else! 2 stars
4/11/01 Jesse L Only way to save it was to go for full nudity.. It was awful.. 1 stars
3/21/01 Thomas J. movie is about as useless as Tipper Gores ovaries! 1 stars
1/11/01 Matt69 Piece of shit, except when he bangs the hot bitch across the street 2 stars
1/06/01 I love movies no story. NO STORY! Just a stupid Superman joke! 1 stars
1/04/01 The Bomb 69 good throughout but the ending was a letdown 4 stars
10/31/00 joe if you go expecting a mad slasher movie with some spectacular effects , you'll like it. 4 stars
9/14/00 Ground Zero a rehash of the classic Invisible Man flick 3 stars
9/10/00 bullit17 Great special effects. Entertaining. Not much of a plot, but what is these days? 4 stars
9/07/00 Wafer This is my bottom 5 of all time. seriously 1 stars
8/28/00 coby de beer it,s very good 4 stars
8/25/00 matthew smith visually, very impressive 4 stars
8/16/00 PhilmPhreak Not as bad as everyone says it is. 4 stars
8/14/00 Truckgirl held my attention til the very end when it got a little crazy... 4 stars
8/13/00 Bueller Woulda, coulda, shoulda, mighta, oughta have made a better movie! Hollow plot and acting! 2 stars
8/12/00 Robert Sharp WAIT UNTIL IT COMES TO VIDEO 3 stars
8/12/00 Zaccone Truely horrible 1 stars
8/10/00 pipeman Watchable until the last 15 minutes when all hell breaks loose with the script and dialoge. 4 stars
8/10/00 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi Even with the hella special FX and talented cast, the movie seems, well...hollow... 3 stars
8/09/00 Poetcdh Cliche, cliche, cliche--wait for it at the $1.00 movie 1 stars
8/09/00 Ilia Rogachev The freezer cooling fans had an on/off dial on them as plain as day. No hair circulation. 1 stars
8/09/00 PJ So So Bad! it's O.K. Campy crap done well 3 stars
8/09/00 Sarah Johnson If you are expecting a well thought out suspensful thriller this is not it. 2 stars
8/08/00 Captain Highcrime Great FX, Shitty dialogue/acting: about as scary as power failure in the daytime. 4 stars
8/08/00 KoHawk Great effects, but we're stuck in a science lab for 2 hrs. Tell me he wouldn't go to city. 3 stars
8/08/00 TheAngryMob Loads O Fun! 4 stars
8/08/00 JussMatt Plenty of T&A, and special effects, but with all that $$ you think they could find a plot!! 3 stars
8/07/00 Doctor Collosus Needs more T&A dammit. 3 stars
8/07/00 Gil Carlson Mindless and gratuitous 3 stars
8/07/00 Marv Albert...SUpa Pervert! give me T&A and i'll be a happy camper 4 stars
8/07/00 Barry Pretty damned special effects yet and good storyline as well! 5 stars
8/06/00 mahone Hollywood: spend money on scripts!!! 3 stars
8/06/00 Georges'sThumbInMyBumb um, just another flick for kevin to try to flash his more then tiny dong 1 stars
8/06/00 Tony The Lurch I've lost my faith in "Erik the Movieman" this movie truly blew 1 stars
8/06/00 chuck Should have waited for the $1.00 movie theater 2 stars
8/06/00 ILuvADrugDealer Script&ending are kind of crappy, but special effects were *AWESOME*! 4 stars
8/05/00 **~**yeah and he was gay**~** interesting, but still lacking, the special fx saved this movie 3 stars
8/05/00 Dr. King Amazing fx and trashy fun. Plus Kevin Bacon needs an Honorary Oscar for his hard work 5 stars
8/03/00 Jokko Hilariously bad. I mean BAD. I had no idea they could put out Battlefield Earth II so fast. 1 stars
8/02/00 Rue the Whirl Pure Hollywood trash. 2 stars
8/02/00 Tim Ryan So bad, seeing it for free was still a rip off. 2 stars
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  04-Aug-2000 (R)


  24-Aug-2000 (MA)

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