Paul Verhoeven, Claudio Fah/ USA /2000-2006 /112 and 91 mins
On Blu-ray Mon 27 May 2019
Hollow Man is a troubling movie with an uneasy combination of exploitation themes and bespoke effects. Such a project would fail to secure funding from any major studio in light of recent studio revelations and abuses of power. More significantly some years after its release director Paul Verhoeven openly questioned his decision to make the film, broadly citing the ability of other directors to deliver the effects behemoth and his own fading star as the motivation.
The reworking of HG Wells seminal tale involves a bro-ish Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) strutting his way through a top-secret facility, testing animals with impunity and ultimately fast-tracking his invisibility project towards completion with a human subject. It is almost as though this gifted biologist had never heard of Plato. The new found super-power enables his selfish God complex to run amok among his relatively drone-like colleagues. Being untouchable allows his psycho-sexual impulses to flourish resulting in the terrorising of females and climaxing with a bloody frenzy of frustration as Caine realises that he is trapped in his altered state.
The rather curious decision to green light a Claudio Fah straight-to-video sequel is made more bizarre when the title role of Michael Higgins is played by a barely present Christian Slater. The bulk of the heavy lifting in Hollow Man 2 is delegated to Detective Turner (Peter Facinelli) who is assigned to investigate a mysterious murder with Hollow Man signature. Drawn into a convoluted tale (military experiments to create invisible assassins) Maggie Dalton (Laura Regan), a biologist for whom Higgins is searching, spends the majority of the first two acts either looking pensive or being shielded from the unseen menace by the befuddled cop.
Whereas in the original the various effects houses dedicated months and millions on rendering slick and believable action, Fah appears content with actors apparently hurling themselves around to mimic the effect of an invisible man interaction. The Star Trek choreography is only supplanted with actual effects work towards the rainy climax as Turner becomes invisible (by choice) and faces off against Higgins.
The budget constraints are evident with the use of Vancouver locations and a tranche of British Columbian actors to fill out the rote characters. The salaciousness and gore of the original appears to have been ditched in favour of a more straightforward chase movie motif which rather misses both the point of an invisible protagonist and the cinematic possibilities of being unleashed from a lab setting.
Neither entry in this short lived franchise fares well but Hollow Man’s madness and indulgent plot make it more memorable than the drab-looking and low-key sequel. The overwhelming feeling is one of disbelief that such a flimsy premise would attract investment of close to nine figures and as such Hollow Man is the perfect example of the zenith of Hollywood excess.