Brilliant scientist Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) and his team of brains have discovered the secret to invisibility. That’s so cool!
Unfortunately Sebastian isn’t the most level-headed guy around. He decides to hold up telling his government bosses about this breakthrough until he can do the experiment on himself. Anyone of us could have told him a scientist experimenting on himself will lead to only bad things, but it’s a must with scientist stories.
So he does it and what do you know – something goes wrong! For some reason the nifty serum won’t bring him back to the visible spectrum again. Uh oh.
The longer he stays invisible the more unhinged Sebastian becomes. See, told you a scientist experimenting on himself is a big no no. Jealously bubbles to the surface seeing his former flame Elisabeth Shue get it on with Josh Brolin. Plus, being cooped up in this lab smothers the freedom Sebastian feels he should have to go out and have new transparent adventures.
Then straight out of a horror flick the team of scientists lives are in danger from Sebastian. He will do anything to keep his discovery from falling into the hands of the government, even going so far as locking his team in their underground lab and going about stalking and silencing each of them with the help of his cool invisibility gift.
I should really chalk up Hollow Man as one of my guilty pleasure movies. I know it’s crummy, clichéd, silly and dumb. I knew all that when I went to see it when it first came out, and I was left shaking my head when it ended. But everytime I catch it on TV since then I always watch the friggin’ thing! I just can’t help it.
It might be because I just love the Invisible Man and am just drawn to the premise of a guy turning invisible and all the cool stuff that comes along with it. Each time I watch Hollow Man I always think, ‘Man, this could have been such a great movie, instead of a such a corny one. Oh well, at least it’s more fun than Memoirs Of An Invisible Man and the effects are great to watch!”
It seems like a reasonable expectation to think Hollow Man will be pretty entertaining, with Paul Verhoeven directing, Bacon starring, all the neato stuff that you can imagine a wacked out invisible scientist could do, plus it being a more violent, perverted and grisly movie that heads into darker territory than what we’ve seen before with an invisible man story. This time the guy just won’t be moving glasses on a table and opening doors. He does much more bonkers stuff. And I always thought Hollow Man is a strange and intriguing title for an invisible man movie.
Alas it wasn’t meant to be. Hollow Man just floats along with incredibly stupid unlikable characters doing incredibly stupid things that we’re forced to watch in this lab. There’s an escalation of evil and ludicrous abilities from the invisible Bacon that come out of nowhere.
I assumed it wasn’t the serum that made him completely deranged, it’s just he was always off his nut somewhat and now he’s given a chance to unleash it all. His new ‘gift’ allows him to get away with things that he had thought about before, but wasn’t able to do. This new power fuels his arrogance and God complex to new heights. Yet the movie never really sets that up well enough to make Bacon’s gonzo behavior as believable as it should be. And I’ll never understand how he could just walk off being engulfed in flames by just being invisible. He’s just invisible, not invulnerable, but I’ll get to that.
The film feels very claustrophobic with so much time spent in that underground lab. We don’t really get to go outside very much for a change of location. This wouldn’t be bad if the cast of characters we’re trapped in that lab with were better written. They’re all just a hodge podge of forgettable scientists who aren’t the least bit memorable.
Somehow this group always reminded me of the tornado chasing team in Twister. They’re supposed to be a fun eclectic group, you’re supposed to like them all, they share amusing little lines with each other and give one another high fives, but it all comes off so forced and ironically hollow. It doesn’t help that the lab set is very blah to look at too.
Yet, setting the characters aside, the first hour or so is still somewhat entertaining thanks to the invisibility stuff. Sixteen years later the effects hold up very well. There’s some dodgy CGI at points, but watching the serum move through the invisible gorilla’s veins I still find awfully cool. And Bacon’s disappearing act looks equally good as he dissipates away letting us seen his muscles, his skeleton and all his innards. The film was robbed of a visual effects Oscar. I would have easily have voted for it over the eventual winner Gladiator. I still would.
Bacon’s rubber mask looks awfully ominous too! Verhoeven makes sure to sit him down in front of lights to really bring out the illusion we’re looking into these giant eye holes and he’s not there. He kinda looks like a creepy jack-o-lantern.
When Bacon turns invisible and starts doing more and more sinister stuff it still holds my attention. He’s on the loose, the team is getting worried and along with it there are those great special effects to compliment it all.
The simplest little scenes are irresistible for me to watch. I’m always just mesmerized watching the invisible Bacon strolling down the corridor with a blanket wrapped around him and sitting on his bed. The way the sheet falls on his body so perfectly and the way it moves is completely convincing. I want to really like this movie!
It’s the third act that really veers into dim-witted cheese. It’s also where some of the coolest invisible special effects take place, so it’s kind of a mixed bag. Bacon goes ape, locks the lab down and goes about killing his team one by one. They deserve it too – they’re all idiots.
This is the kind of movie where victims are being stalked by a maniac and they keep yelling out to him asking him where he is. “Sebastian?”, “Sebastian!!”, “Where are you Sebastian?”. You hear that so many times during this movie you want to cover your ears! These characters would be right at home in an unimaginative horror movie from thirty years ago.
I find myself yelling back to the screen, “Hey, idiots he’s not going to answer you! Now why don’t you try to shut up!”. I hoped for more from Verhoeven.
This idiocy really gets me aggravated. I can accept the premise of an invisible man running around, but it really grates on me that the folks who made the discovery would be as dumb as they act here.
After learning that Sebastian lied to the Pentagon and Shue didn’t tell them about it, they act awfully blasé about this betrayal. Shue is running out to find the invisible Bacon on the loose, but she doesn’t bring her infrared googles with her? And why take such a cool idea and just turn the invisible Bacon into a one-dimensional psychopathic indestructible killer and have the film end with such an over-the-top formulaic horror movie finale? Come on! Something different could have been done.
There’s some really depraved moments like Bacon killing a dog and the raping of his sexy neighbor. As disturbing as those scenes are I think they’re more compelling than most of the other things Bacon does.
I would have preferred to see the movie keep a more realistic track of a psychotic invisible scientist snapping and doing unspeakable things that are in the realm of possibility. But Bacon becomes this invincible, invisible entity surviving flames, crowbars to the head and electrocution. It gets very ridiculous.
He’s a naked invisible Kevin Bacon – he didn’t just become super strong! Like, he can easily pick up and strangle the very large Greg Grunberg? Really???? Seriously??? Come on! Bashing a dog apart ok. Attacking Rhona Mitra fine. Easily lifting and choking Grunberg – nope you lost me.
Brolin doesn’t get to do much of anything, but be a stoic leading man who acts concerned all the time. Shue gets a good moment of blasting Bacon with some flames towards the end, but for the rest of the movie she’s nothing to write home about. She does this one macho line, “We’re going to take him down” and I always laugh at how cheesy she delivers it. Yeah, her best moment is sliding into the elevator and flaming Bacon.
So we’re left with Bacon and the special effects and both of those just manage to hold up this flick for me. Verhoeven makes sure to toss in scenes with smoke, water, blood, a variety of things to outline his fiendish invisible killer and it all looks great. The circumstances are ridiculous, but it’s thrilling to see the effects at work and that’s the sole reason why I always find myself watching this everytime I catch it.
Without fail after watching Hollow Man I’ll be left muttering my feelings of how it so missed the mark of being a great invisible man movie. And also asking myself, why does electrocution make Bacon partially visible during the end? Beats me.
Despite me personally always getting wrapped up with it, I couldn’t really recommend Hollow Man. Other than the special effects, which I still think are fantastic and are more stunning to watch then most of the big glossy special effects we see being done in today’s big-budget films, the story is disappointing.
I’m not usually dazzled solely by special effects to hold my attention in a movie, but I can’t help it with Hollow Man. So that’s the selling point. Don’t expect anything from the characters or story, just marvel at the cool invisible Bacon. Funny how a movie called Hollow Man became such a hollow movie.
I hope if Universal does indeed move forth with their expanded monster cinematic universe we’ll get a great invisible man movie from it. I’d love to see that!
YOU THINK YOU'RE GOD? I'LL SHOW YOU GOD!!!
I was hoping you would agree with me in that this film is a "guilty pleasure" and I literally cheered when you used those exact same words in the review! The script for HOLLOW MAN is really, really stupid but you are right in that the effects are Oscar-worthy, as is the music by Jerry Goldsmith (which I'm a little surprised you didn't even mention). Plus, call me a pervert, but I'm always down on seeing Elisabeth Shue in her panties. Great review, and I agreed with every single word you said here. By the way, did you ever see the 2006 direct-to-DVD sequel with Christian Slater? I haven't, but I'm sure the original is up to 1933's THE INVISIBLE MAN in comparison. Also, unlike all his co-stars, I actually think Kevin Bacon was really good here, almost as much as his great turn in 1998's STIR OF ECHOES.
You're right CK Goldsmith's score is pretty good. There's a nice spooky vibe to it and during that climax it adds to the action nicely – even tho the action is ludicrous. I tried watching Hollow Man 2 years back and never made it through it. Then after this recent watch of Hollow Man I attempted to watch the sequel again and only made it through 15 minutes. Maybe I'll try it again (it's on youtube), but I know not to expect anything from it.
This movie is just plain awful. And stupid. Look no further than the original "The Invisible Man" with Claude Rains as a superior film in this genre. I could list at least a dozen reasons why this thing was terrible. But I'm not going to. All I'm going to say is that you have all these "brilliant" scientists and they couldn't even think of throwing some paint on the transparent lunatic.
Hollow Man, after the failure of Showgirls and Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven literally became a director for hire and he was hired for this rubbish. Sorry but this film is awful, sure the idea of an invisible man hunting and murdering people in a claustrophobic setting does have some appeal, but overall this is a storyline that should be left on the shelf. Verhoeven could do so much better than this and sadly in nearly the 20 years since its release Verhoeven has directed the brilliant Black Books, and the upcoming and appealing Elle. Hollow Man was the last nail in the coffin for the man who gave us the tripple whammy of Robocop, Total Recall and Basic Instinct.