Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin, Kim
Dickens, Greg Grunberg, Joey Slotnick, Mary Randle, William Devane
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 119 Minutes
Release Date: October 16, 2007
“It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have to look at yourself in the mirror anymore.”
Paul Verhoeven has long been the mad scientist of movie making. The Dutch director made an impressive American debut with RoboCop in 1987. Since then, Verhoeven has made a name for himself, creating savage tales of science fiction featuring some of the most cutting-edge special effects ever seen in today’s cinema, such as Total Recall in 1990 and his monumental masterpiece Starship Troopers in 1997.
Now comes Verhoeven’s ode to the sci-fi/horror thrillers of the late 50s and early 60s with his invisible man thriller, Hollow Man. The movie really is a feast for the senses, as it boasts the most amazing visual and special effects to be seen in any movie since The Matrix, in addition to an interesting plot involving a somewhat mad scientist whose moral values slowly deteriorate with horrifying results.
The scientist in this movie is Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) who has perfected an invisibility formula and has successfully tested it on animals. He has also cracked the reversion code that can bring animals back to visible form. In an amazing sequence, Caine and his team of scientists inject the formula into an invisible gorilla, and we see the entire body come back to visible form, and the visual effects in this scene are nothing short of extreme visual wonder. It simply has to be seen!
The project is being funded by the Pentagon, who Caine lies to, telling them he really hasn’t succeeded in cracking the reversion code. He does this to buy some time to move ahead to human testing, and volunteers as the first human to become invisible. His colleagues, including fellow scientist and former flame Linda (Elisabeth Shue) are dead set against proceeding to human testing, especially without the Pentagon’s permission, but they proceed anyway.
The test is successful, and at first Caine is more than pleased with his new image, or non-image rather. Then the experiment takes a bad detour when Sebastian’s team realizes they can’t create a reversion process to bring him back to visible form, causing Sebastian to lose his cool in the most unexpected way.
Many critics blasted the film’s plot for turning its invisible lead character into a murderous psycho, but I on the other hand find it to be an entertaining plot twist. Even in the beginning of the film, Dr. Caine isn’t a particularly nice person. He doesn’t seem very evil, but it is definitely egotistical in his profession, and is even despised by a few of his fellow scientists.
Since being invisible does offer Dr. Caine a little more freedom, it allows him to some hideous things, also allowing his moral values to take a horrific turn. When Sebastian’s fellow scientists threaten to expose him and his devious actions to the Pentagon itself, the doctor evolves into a true mad scientist, leading to a highly suspenseful climatic showdown in the laboratory.
Hollow Man also boasts one heck of a production value. The look of the laboratory, for example, creates the kind of high tech atmosphere necessary for a sci-fi movie. Verhoeven has always been a pro at giving his action movies the appropriate look and setting.
Verhoeven is also a director who pushes the envelope of violence in his films. He broke the violent barrier with Starship Troopers after shooting all time highs with the human body counts in both RoboCop and Total Recall. While Hollow Man doesn’t have a particularly high body count, its violence is in the gory Verhoeven tradition, especially in its last thirty minutes. The opening scene of the movie itself displays some bloody delight, perfectly illustrating what’s to come later in the movie.
Hollow Man simply worked for me, and at times was truly stunning and highly suspenseful. Some good performances, especially Kevin Bacon’s thoroughly convincing performance as the title character. Had there been a director other than Paul Verhoeven at the helm, I seriously think the movie wouldn’t have been as successful, because Verhoeven knows how to make science fiction thrillers with a certain edge. He is a scientist in his own right, and the movies he makes are his formula to test on an audience. The formula of Hollow Man was tested on this viewer, and the results were more than successful.
Once again, after reviews of two different releases of the movie, Hollow Man remains one of the top reference quality discs on the market. For this new Director’s Cut release, the picture remains flawless and superb, lacking any detection of image compression, softness, or grain. The entire presentation consists of a terrifically glowing picture, that is sharp as can be and the epitome of pure theatrical quality. The state of the art visual effects are the big payoff of this presentation, as one would expect. This remains one of the most exuberant DVD presentations I’ve experienced.
Same remarks for the sound quality remain the same, in that this is also one of the most incredible sound presentations you will ever experience. Despite the absence of the DTS track, which was included on the Superbit release, the 5.1 Dolby mix remains an effective audio track nonetheless. All of the intriguing sound effects applied to the Bacon character’s invisible traits rank among some of the more unique sound qualities ever heard in a presentation. Jerry Goldsmith’s score also is a standout. Marvelous all around!
Like the Superbit two-disc release, the only feature missing from this new Director’s Cut release is the fun commentary track with Paul Verhoeven, Kevin Bacon and screenwriter Andrew Marlowe, which was featured on the first DVD release.
Otherwise, in addition to the 8 minutes of newly added footage, there’s plenty of behind the scenes fun to be had, including the HBO Making-of special, “Anatomy of a Thriller”, as well as “Fleshing Out the Hollow Man”, a 15-part documentary with extensive insight into the making of the movie, and a Visual Effects Picture in Picture Comparison. Lastly, there are several Bonus Previews for additional Sony releases.
Opinions have decreased over the years of certain films I enjoyed when I first saw them. Thankfully, Hollow Man is not one of those movies, as I still find it to be the unapologetically violent and visual marvel it was when I first saw it seven years ago. And fans of the movie will certainly want to check out this new Director’s Cut release!