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Fast-paced and occasionally exciting, but ultimately disappointing.
** out of ****
I've seen Hollow Man twice now, the first time in theaters, where I had the distinct impression that I'd seen a fast-paced thriller that was nonetheless entirely disposable and unfulfilling. Seeing the film again, I had the exact same feeling. Hollow Man is a film of great potential, packed with terrific special effects and a surprisingly engaging cast (the exceptions being Josh Brolin and Elisabeth Shue). So when the movie goes to cliche hell in its final 1/3, you'll be very disappointed even though the action is still entertaining.
Kevin Bacon stars as Sebastian Caine, a scientist working with a diverse crew in an underground laboratory on a military project. The goal: to achieve the power of invisibility, as well as the ability to return to a visible state. Caine, being the egotistical hothead that he is, performs the procedure on himself, but finds he is unable to return to his human state. With Caine growing further and further mad, the rest of the crew try to find a way to revert him back to his normal state, not knowing Caine is beginning to prefer his invisibility and will do anything to keep it.
The first half-hour of Hollow Man is the best, when we're introduced to these wow-inducing, eye-popping visual effects. This is also the point where the story holds the most potential, before devolving into B-grade land. Now, most people seem to agree that the film would have worked a lot better if it had focused on Bacon brandishing his invisibility on the outside world, and there is a ten-minute segment where he does do this, but it's also arguably the film's worst part.
The reason? That's easy, it's because he rapes Rhona Mitra. Apparently, director Paul Verhoeven seemed very satisfied with just presenting this rape, as if though to make a statement about man's human nature and what we'd do if we didn't have to face up to the consequences. That's fine and all, I'm for a little depth here and there, but it disturbs me that he doesn't address Mitra's character further. Here's a woman who's been raped by an invisible man, and we're simply supposed to accept this scene and not wonder about the effect this will have on her psychological state (think about it this way, unless the military goes public with all the invisibility stuff, there's no way she wouldn't know if she'd be attacked again). This is where the movie truly goes awry.
The last half-hour is essentially Caine going around, knocking off all the lab workers, and while it's uninspired material, it's still rather exciting to watch, if only because Verhoeven is a skilled action director who really knows how to make us squirm and cringe at the sight of blood and guts. But by the time it's all over, though I found myself mildly entertained, there was still a bad taste in my mouth from the filmmakers' poor decision-making and routine route they chose for the film.
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