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Movies Kelly Parks Review by
Kelly Parks
Hollowman
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HOLLOW MAN - 2000
Columbia Pictures
Rated: USA: R


The girls' locker room. I'm sorry, but I've got to start with that. There is not a heterosexual man alive that doesn't instantly associate invisibility with getting a look inside that mythic haven (from an adolescent boy's point of view) of female nudity. What do women think of when they imagine being invisible? More to the point, what does Paul Verhoeven think?

HOLLOW MAN was directed by Mr. Verhoeven (ROBOCOP, TOTAL RECALL, STARSHIP TROOPERS) and written by Andrew W. Marlowe (END OF DAYS). It is the classic movie fantasy, done and done again because it's just too much fun, about what it would be like to be invisible.

The story opens with a very unlucky rat who becomes lunch for an invisible cat. The effect is well done and is a foretaste of many well done invisibility effects to come.

Cut to the home of research scientist Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon: TREMORS, STIR OF ECHOES). He's running computer simulations of some kind of organic molecule and is clearly disappointed with the results. A light from the building across the street distracts him and he pauses to watch a beautiful neighbor start to undress just before she draws the blinds. I think we can all see where that subplot is going.

The distraction proves inspirational as Sebastian returns to his computer and tries a different configuration. Eureka! He calls fellow scientist Linda McKay (Elisabeth Shue) to inform her of the discovery, not even noticing that it's 4 am. The call is made on the computer video phone and when Sebastian sees that Linda has an unidentified bed mate his questions make it clear that these two had more than a professional relationship not so long ago.

Sebastian asks Linda to have the rest of the research team meet in the lab right away. She has no trouble contacting Matt Kensington (Josh Brolin: MIMIC) because he's sleeping in her bed, a fact they are keeping secret from Sebastian.

The team meets down at a well guarded, underground government lab. We find out that Sebastian's new discovery isn't about causing invisibility – they already know how to do that – it's about curing it. They bring an invisible gorilla into the lab and, in spite of some tense medical moments, are gratified to see that his discovery works. The gorilla is visible again.

We also get a taste of Sebastian's ego. He's a genius and isn't shy about letting people know it. When a co-worker speaking over an intercom makes a joke about sounding like God, Sebastian reminds him, "You aren't God. I am." Everyone laughs but he isn't kidding (I've got to admit there's something likable about arrogance when you can back it up, but maybe that's just me.).

True to his ego, Sebastian makes the decision to go on to human trials immediately, with himself as the human subject. This is unbeknownst to Dr. Howard Kramer (William Devane: THE DARK), the Pentagon overseer of the project. Linda and Matt correctly object that this is not the way science is done and that it's way too soon for human trials but they are no match for Sebastian’s determination. In short order, Sebastian is invisible.

Okay, you knew this was coming. Time for a

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
Much to my own surprise, I have very few objections to the science in this movie. Invisibility in the usual sense, basically being perfectly transparent, isn’t really a workable idea because you wouldn’t really be invisible any more than very clear glass is invisible. Difficult to notice, sure, but that’s all, much like the creature in the PREDATOR movies. However, The HOLLOW MAN isn’t transparent. Instead, he’s been "quantum phase shifted" so he’s out of synch with regular matter. What does that mean? Not a damn thing, but at least they made a pseudo-scientific effort which is all I ask.

The one thing I will mention is something they point out in the movie but don’t carry to its obvious conclusion. Sebastian is sensitive to light because his eyelids are transparent so he can’t close his eyes. Alas, this also means his retinas are transparent so he’d suffer the fate of all invisible men: he’d be blind. So much for the girls’ locker room.

Sebastian does have a series of voyeuristic interludes but he does more than just watch. He quickly develops a mean streak that begins to first border on and then surpass the psychotic. Many other reviewers have objected to this as making no sense in terms of Sebastian's character, but if you’re a fan of the original invisible man movies you know that the drug that allows invisibility also causes paranoid schizophrenia. This is a flaw – the movie does a very poor job of making that clear. If it had, then what follows is a lot scarier. Imagine a paranoid schizophrenic (the most dangerous mental illness) becoming convinced that you are out to get him so – of course – he must get you first. Then imagine he could be in the room with you right now, but you won't know it until you feel his hands around your throat.

Too bad I'm describing a better movie than THE HOLLOW MAN. The fault lies with Verhoeven, not with excellent actor Kevin Bacon. Verhoeven (who hasn't made a good movie since ROBOCOP) relied too much on special effects and not enough on plot. If only he'd made the reason for Sebastian's madness clearer, and if only the final scenes hadn't been so slasher-movie predictable and cheesy, this would have been a much better film. I give it three shriek girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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