Hollow Man (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Yeah, I'm sure you're expecting this to be a cinema classic, right? Hint: it was directed by Paul Verhoeven. Think "Showgirls".

Actually, I went to see it with my kids, and we all kind of enjoyed it on a brainless summer blockbuster level, although a bad sign is that the kids thought it was kind of dumb. This is a leading indicator of true dumbness, because they're impressed with the sophistication of The Smurfs. To them, Papa Smurf is like Peter Ustinov, so when they think something is dumb, it must really be obvious.

Contrary to your expectations generated by the title, this is not a biography of John Tesh, but rather yet another version of The Invisible Man. Possibly with a bit of autobiography of director Paul Verhoeven, since invisibility was his fondest wish after he read the reviews of Showgirls.

The plot is the usual mad scientist crap. The research is ready to test on humans, so the mad scientist decides to test it on himself. And he doesn't tell the congressional oversight committee that he is ready for that stage.

Then he delivers such classic lines as "they say I'm mad, but I'll show them, I'll show them all. Mua-ha-ha-ha".


Rhona Mitra is seen topless in a prolonged voyeuristic scene (hey, what would you do if you were invisible)

Kim Dickens' breast is seen when the Invisible Man exposes it for his own amusement

Kevin Bacon is seen from the rear several times, and his penis is briefly on view when he changes positions on the table.

Actually, this isn't from the movie but is an actual quote from Verhoeven's life, when he was discussing his decision to make a gazillion dollar movie starring Elizabeth Berkley. Anyway, then the scientist/girlfriend says "be afraid, be very afraid". Then they muse about what might have happened if he had used his genius for good instead of evil, and whether man is meant to challenge God. You get the point. The usual horror cliches. In fact, if you have seen "The Fly", you've pretty much seen this, except for the invisibility special effects.

Amazingly enough, all the scientists in this film, good or bad, drive very expensive automobiles and live in luxury, and are uniformly handsome and in great physical condition, despite spending 22 hours per day with their test tubes.

Kevin Bacon apparently has discovered the Fountain of Youth as well as the invisibility serum, because he looks about the same as he did in Animal House 30 years ago. The serum makes Bacon a for-real mad scientist, so he gains deranged murderous impulses to go with his previous God complex, and he was already a big Freudian mess to begin with. Then the invisibility thing gives him absolute power, and he gets even crazier, and starts raping and killing and pillaging small Eastern European villages, and refusing to share his plunder with his fellow invisible freebooters.

But I'm sure you know that in the end the handsome good scientists triumph over the handsome evil scientist, and they escape the flaming underground bunker through an elevator shaft. The runaway elevator stops three inches from their heads, the dead mad scientist is not really dead yet ... thereby adding the usual action cliches to the horror cliches. They did forget the thunderstorms and the ticking bomb that stops at 0:07, but I'm sure those will be in the sequel.

So what's good about it if it has all those corny cliches? I'll show you. I'll show you all, mua-ha-ha-ha.

DVD info from Amazon.

Widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1

full-length commentary by Bacon and Verhoeven

HBO "making of"

several behind-the-scenes featurettes

three deleted scenes

Well, it isn't really good at all, now that I think about it. I mean you won't confuse it with "Henry V". But it does have Rhona Mitra and Kim Dickens showing their breasts (Bacon slips off Dickens' blouse when she sleeps, and he peeks in on Mitra)

I think the reason I liked it a little bit was the fast pace of the opening (which slowed considerably in the middle), and the f/x. And the breasts, don't forget those.

And it does have some absolutely great invisibility effects. The Apollo reviewer led with, "Hollow Man is a tragic waste of brilliantly realized visual effects". Berardinelli wrote , "(a) masterpiece of visual ingenuity sadly lacking in many other creative categories". That about sums it up. The best effect, by far, is the one with the bodies appearing and disappearing on the operating table as the visibility or invisibility potions take effect. Very cool stuff, just like those "visible man" things you can buy your kids to help them understand biology. Unfortunately, the filmmakers liked this device so much they repeated it about 1200 times, and I got the point after number 2. But it's must viewing if you have an anatomy final coming up.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars, across the board. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2/4, Maltin 2/4, Apollo 59. I agree.

  • Rotten Tomatoes Summary. Only 23% positive overall, and a dismal 8% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDb summary: IMDb voters score it 5.6, but Apollo users chipped in a respectable 77.
  • With their dollars ... it did okay. The $73 million domestic gross (at a summer blockbuster distribution of 3000 screens) looks pretty impressive until you realize that the film had a $95 million budget, so they were hoping for a runaway hit ala MI-2, and it wasn't there. On the other hand, the film took in another 100 million overseas, so the investors will not starve at all, especially after rentals and other rights. It was the 14th highest grossing film in the world this year.
My guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a very slick C.

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