Hollow Man is a 2000 American science fiction thriller film directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, and Josh Brolin. The film is about a scientist who renders himself invisible, a story inspired by H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Visual Effects in 2000. The direct-to-video sequel Hollow Man 2 was released in 2006. Scientist Dr. Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) develops a serum that can make a subject invisible, but has had difficulty in reversing the process. Working late one night on re-configuring the molecular model of the irradiated protein that will restore a test gorilla to visibility, he solves the problem and immediately reports his success to the top members of his staff. Although work on the serum occupies nearly all of his waking hours, Sebastian becomes obsessed with his ex-girlfriend Dr. Linda McKay (Elisabeth Shue), who is a scientist on his team. Unbeknownst to him, she has become involved with Dr. Matt Kensington (Josh Brolin), another member of their research group.
Okay, Kevin Bacon! You’re invisible and you can’t go back to being visible — what do you do!?
Well, you spy on some naked chicks, right? That’s what I’d do! That’s what every guy would do, right!
Paul Verhoeven’s latest homage to Big Acting and overdirection is light on the naked chicks and heavy on the violence, because, as it turns out, being invisible makes you insane and clearly Mad With Power. And the chicks just get in the way of the killing!
I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. The Invisible Man gets a millennial upgrade to Hollow Man, when a team of government-contracted scientists led by Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Caine figures out how to ‘phase shift’ (ahem) a person to become completely invisible. As we are told during one briefing, the phase shifting is the easy part (of course). It’s undoing the process and making someone visible again that’s tricky.
When Caine successfully un-phase shifts a gorilla, he figures, what the hay, he’ll try it on himself. All goes well until, oopsy, the un-shifting doesn’t work on humans! As Caine simmers as an invisible man trying to figure out how to revisible-ize, stuck at the lab — located, quite naturally, in a pit dug hundreds of feet into the earth and with only one exit — he starts to go crazy.
To be honest, even the most bored observer will see that Caine was crazy to begin with, and it comes as no surprise when he starts offing his staff, who are threatening to tattle about the illegal/unethical human trial to their Pentagon benefactors. Most notable among them is Linda (Elisabeth Shue), an ex-girlfriend who’s now having a fling with another researcher named Matt (Josh Brolin)…. Two guys out of four on staff? Linda must be the trampiest medical professional on film to date.
For good and for bad, Verhoeven avoids the ambition of grandiose movies like Starship Troopers, and Hollow Man ends up taking place mostly in the budget-friendly underground cave — just like any number of ‘trapped on a ship’ sea monster movies, only with no water and an invisible monster.
To say that Kevin Bacon is a ham in this film would be insulting to pigs. (Insert your own ‘bacon’ joke here.) While Shue makes a more credible scientist here than she did in The Saint, it’s still a stretch to see her in a role that isn’t either a prostitute or a babysitter.
But ultimately, Hollow Man is simply a paean to some dazzling special effects, the sophistication of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen — mind-bending in their complexity, blood curdling in their goriness, and almost unthinkable in their realism. There’s water-covered invisible man, burning invisible man, and blood-spattered invisible man. The capper of course is the phase shift process, one of the more gruesome events ever put to film, and not merely because of the prominence of Bacon’s skin-stripped male member. Of course, never mind the ersatz scientific holes (mainly, if you un-phase shift from the inside-out, why do you phase shift from the outside-in? — the serum still starts in your veins and works through the body that way).
Whatever. Hollow Man is disturbing enough to be fun, and utterly dumb enough to not get in the way of the former. Just like that other Verhoeven classic. You know: Showgirls.
Shue makes Bacon. Extra-crispy.