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[whitespace] Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon
No There, There: Elisabeth Shue inspects Kevin Bacon's bandage in 'Hollow Man.'

Inside Out

Kevin Bacon's 'Hollow Man' is all surface, no substance

By Richard von Busack

IN HIS NEW FILM, Hollow Man, Paul Verhoeven (Starship Troopers) takes H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man and adds nothing but viciousness and stupidity to it. Kevin Bacon plays Sebastian Caine. With that name, he doesn't need a cape, a top hat and a black mustache to twirl to tell you that he's going to turn bad. Caine's developed an invisibility serum with the most well buffed group of scientists since Doc Savage retired: Kim Dickens, Josh Brolin (a Harry Hamlin for the new millennium) and Elisabeth Shue, whose midriff is more expressive than her face.

In their secret underground military lab, the group turns animals invisible. Caine is the first human guinea pig, but they can't bring him back. Soon, the idea of invisibility goes to his head, turning him into a sexual predator. The movie endorses his prowling--the women here are all cock teasers who undress in front of the window or else provoke men with their navels. The second half of the film finds the cast trapped in an underground lab with Caine, who picks them off one by one. What starts as an invisible man movie becomes a standard dull bug hunt. Our villain, once strong, seems to be invulnerable--all the better to kill him off three different times, three different ways.

In the 70-minute-long 1933 film The Invisible Man, directed by James Whale, the story starts faster. When Claude Rains emerges from the snows, head bandaged and eyes covered in welder's goggles, he's already raging from the paranoia-inducing effects of the invisibility drug, "Monocaine." Rains' Dr. Jack Griffin is insane but playful, and it's his idea of what's playful that makes the horror. In one moment, his empty pants caper down the street as he sings "Nuts in May." In the next, he's cackling as he derails a passenger train for kicks. The only powerful moments in the new movie are the grisly scenes of half-materialized creatures who look as if they've been skinned--like animated Francis Bacon paintings (no relation to Kevin). We're talking about 15 minutes of the film, however.

In the press notes about the year 2000 version, Verhoeven comments, "When Andrew [Marlowe] wrote the script, he included special effects that were not yet possible. ... He wrote it on the edge, and it has really pushed the envelope." I wish that envelope had "Return to Sender" on it. Except for the close-ups on Caine's hollow face mask and the gross anatomy, these are effects you've seen before. When the animators try to re-create a woman's breast (Dickens, asleep, is suckled by the invisible pervert) we see an excellent example of what computer graphics won't do yet. Nothing looks more synthetic than a computer-animated tit. Meanness and cheapness may not be enough to sink this movie, but the been-there effects may ensure that Hollow Man will be vanishing from the screens before too long.


Hollow Man (R; 114 min.), directed by Paul Verhoeven, written by Andrew W. Marlowe, photographed by Jost Vacano and starring Kevin Bacon and Elisabeth Shue, opens Friday at selected theaters.

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From the August 3-9, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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