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Paul Verhoeven
Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg
Andrew W. Marlowe, Gary Scott Thompson

Think You're Alone? Think Again.

Box Office:
Budget $95 million.
Opening weekend $26.414 million on 2956 screens.
Domestic gross $73.209 million.

Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.

Academy Awards:
Nominated for Best Visual Effects.

Widescreen 1.851/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $19.94
Release Date: 10/16/2007

• “Hollow Man: Anatomy of a Thriller” Featurette
• “Fleshing Out the Hollow Man” Featurette
• VFX Picture Comparison
• Previews

Score soundtrack

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Hollow Man: Director's Cut (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 17, 2007)

Paul Verhoeven: brilliantly visceral and daringly explicit filmmaker or goo-obsessed hack? The jury's still out on that one, as Verhoeven remains an intensely uneven director. Some of his films completely reek (Basic Instinct, Showgirls), some are hit and miss (Starship Troopers), while others are largely strong (Robocop).

While it probably fits best into the "hit and miss" category, Verhoeven's Hollow Man comes very close to the "stinker" domain. This updating of the “invisible man” story provides a few solid thrills, but a combination of generally tired action and drab characters dooms it to mediocrity.

In Hollow Man, we find a team of scientists funded by the US military to find a way to make folks invisible. Headed by brilliant but arrogant Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) and abetted by his second-in-charge - and ex-girlfriend - Linda (Elisabeth Shue), the film shows that these brainiacs have developed a serum that will make the injectee invisible. However, they’re having trouble bringing the subjects back to the visible spectrum.

The movie starts with Sebastian as he finds the apparent solution. After some success with it, he decides to take the next logical testing step: use the invisibility method on a human instead of an animal. He chooses himself and has a little fun. Unfortunately, the formula to return him to visibility doesn’t work, so he’s stuck in the world of translucency. This turn of events messes with Sebastian’s already-unstable mind and he goes from being simply a smug prick to becoming a truly nasty piece of work.

The story isn’t a direct copy of 1932’s classic James Whale Invisible Man, but the emotional instability of each main character offers one constant. It’s not a great framework, but it seems to be required to make the lead scary. After all, if this is just an average Joe who wants nothing more than to check out some naked babes, there’s not much of a movie there. We also don’t want to see a guy who begins the piece as an evil person; we need the transformation to make the chills effective.

That’s one minor problem with Hollow Man. We never see any likable characteristics of Sebastian. He’s handsome and smart but he’s clearly such a jerk that we don’t find his decent to violence as tragic or unexpected. Bacon offers a very solid portrayal of Caine, but the role is limited and not a great choice for a lead.

However, Caine stands out because at least he demonstrates a personality, something lacking in every other participant. Shue is a capable actress but she’s dishwater-dull as Linda; the character never displays any spark, intelligence or other compelling qualities. She’s complemented by another scientist on the team - and her current boyfriend - Matthew (Josh Brolin). He’s even more boring and drab than Linda; compared to him she’s a 24-hour party. I point out more problems with Brolin’s acting, but I won’t. Barbra Streisand is his stepmother, so the guy’s suffered enough.

Hollow Man may earn an award for “Worst Female Hairstyles”. All three of the main female characters were afflicted with genuinely atrocious haircuts. Kim Dickens and Janice Randle (two additional team-members) aren’t particularly gorgeous under the best of circumstances, so their ugly ‘dos didn’t bug me too much, but I genuinely hated the bob worn by Shue. She’s a tremendously sexy woman, but with that cheese-wedge haircut, I could barely stand to look at her. The movie has a $95 million budget but they sent all the actresses to Supercuts?

The film makes heavy usage of both computer-generated imagery (CGI) and green-screen shots. For the most part these work fairly well and have few apparently flaws. However, I rarely felt as though I wasn’t watching movie magic; I almost always was supremely conscious of the fact I was viewing sophisticated technical wizardry. Something about most of the work just seemed off for some vague reason.

Granted, none of that would have been much of a factor if the story itself were more compelling and if the movie presented greater levels of excitement. Unfortunately, Hollow Man largely fell flat. The film provides an occasional thrill but my adrenaline never really started to pump. As such, we’re left with a sporadically entertaining but generally limp action/horror hybrid that largely wastes the involved talent.

Note that this DVD presents a “Director’s Cut” of Hollow Man that runs seven minutes longer than the theatrical version. If you watched the deleted scenes on the prior release, you’ll know what to expect here; the DC simply integrates those excised sequences into the longer rendition.

The longer version includes:

-Sarah talks to Linda and Matt after Sebastian gropes her;

-A more explicit version of Sebastian’s rape of his neighbor;

-Sarah finds a dead dog and questions Sebastian about it; Linda thinks he’s in the bedroom with her and discovers his escape.

The rape scene is really the only significant one. It simply makes more explicit what we already know. None of these scenes does anything to improve or really alter the movie experience.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus B

Hollow Man appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No significant concerns cropped up during this fine transfer.

Sharpness appeared strong throughout the film. Only a smidgen of softness interfered with a few wider shots. Otherwise, the movie looked crisp and detailed. Moiré effects and jagged edges seemed absent, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Print flaws also appeared virtually non-existent.

Colors were appropriately accurate and natural. The film used a fairly restrained palette, so little about the hues stood out in any way, but these tones seemed nicely reproduced nonetheless. Colors were always clear and tight. Black levels also appeared deep and rich, with strong contrast. Shadow detail came across as appropriately heavy but never seemed excessively thick; low light sequences looked just as dark as they should, and I was always able to easily discern the action. All in all, Hollow Man looked very good.

The film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was also very positive. The soundfield provided active audio from all five speakers. Actually, it took awhile for the surrounds to really kick into overdrive; the mix didn’t become really overwhelming until the action throttles up toward the climax. However, the audio presented lots of ambient information even during quieter scenes. Music spread nicely to the rears, and general sounds from the environments appeared strong. This tendency was best noted whenever the actors entered the lab’s kennel area; the animal noises always seemed placed in realistic and accurate locations.

Actually, spatial relationships were a high point of this track, as the mix consistently featured logical and nicely integrated sounds; everything seemed to emanate from the proper places. This extended to some nice usage of directional dialogue; while invisible, many of Bacon’s lines popped up all around the soundstage, an effect that greatly enhanced the creepy aspects of the story.

Audio quality appeared similarly good. Dialogue seemed consistently crisp and well-defined. Much of it needed to be looped, but the speech always blended nicely with the action and I noticed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Jerry Goldsmith’s score sounded bright and dynamic, and some of the movie’s rock tunes also showed excellent punch; I really liked the scenes when Bacon cranked his car stereo, as the songs blasted clearly and with power.

Effects were also positive. No matter how loud the mix became, these components always remained accurate and free of distortion. All parts of the track boasted stellar bass. The low end of the film seemed warm and rich.

I had only one complaint about the soundtrack, and it related to the soundfield itself. (This may include a spoiler - be warned!) During the climax, sprinklers went off and surrounded us quite convincingly. However, while the sprinklers were still active, some other actions took place. These other sounds were not well integrated with the sprinklers; the latter took a back seat and became less prominent. It seemed artificial and awkward. The moments only lasted a few seconds, and they didn’t bother me enough to affect my rating of the soundtrack, but I thought I’d mention them anyway; these were the only weak moments in an otherwise-stellar mix.

How did the picture and audio of this Hollow Man “Director’s Cut” compare to those of the original DVD from 2000? Both seemed very similar. If any real variations occurred, I didn’t detect them, as I thought both were an awful lot alike.

In terms of extras, we mostly find bits and pieces from that 2000 Hollow Man DVD. First up is a general featurette called Hollow Man: Anatomy of a Thriller. This 15-minute program offers the usual glossy promotional bent we expect of such pieces, but it presented enough interesting information to make it worth a look. We find a typical combination of movie clips, interview snippets, and shots from the set. The latter are what make this show compelling, as we get to see lots of good “behind the scenes” material. It’s not a stellar documentary, but it’s above average.

In a section titled Fleshing Out the Hollow Man, lots more information is split into 15 different mini-featurettes. These cover a wide variety of topics, though most of them are technical in nature. We learn a lot about how all of the effects were created, and this includes one of the best visual demonstrations of motion-controlled camerawork I’ve seen during the second featurette (called “Invisibility Formula”). Each piece lasts between 50 seconds and six minutes, 40 seconds for a total of 39 minutes and 40 seconds worth of material. The “short clip” format can be a little frustrating, but the segments are all quite good and they merit viewing.

VFX Picture Comparisons are a fun way to see how the original photography looked. Most of the screen shows the raw footage from three different scenes. (I planned to provide the names of these segments but since their titles give away a lot of plot, I skipped this.) In the lower-right corner of the screen, we see the final material. The snippets run between 50 seconds and two minutes, 15 seconds for a total of four minutes and five seconds. I really enjoyed this look at the shots in their “natural” state.

Finally, Previews presents a few ads. We get promos for Pumpkinhead 4: Blood Feud, Wind Chill, Kaw, a Resident Evil/Resident Evil: Apocalypse 2-pack, Rise: Blood Hunter, Hostel Part II, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, “Ray Harryhausen In Color”, The Company and Seinfeld Season 9.

The Director’s Cut DVD loses some supplements from the 2000 release. Of course, it drops the three deleted scenes since they’re now in the movie. It also omits an audio commentary with director Paul Verhoeven, actor Kevin Bacon and writer Andrew Marlowe as well as an isolated score/commentary with Jerry Goldsmith. The new disc fails to provide the talent files, production notes and trailers from the original version too.

Hollow Man has its moments, but not enough of them to succeed. While I didn’t hate it, I thought it was a fairly weak film that didn’t remotely live up to its potential. On the other hand, the DVD does pretty well for itself. It combines very good picture and sound with a mix of interesting extras.

I can’t quite figure out for whom this “Director’s Cut” of Hollow Man merits a recommendation. I wouldn’t advise new viewers to check it out just because I don’t think it’s a good movie. Fans who don’t own any DVD would be better served with the 2000 release since it includes more extras, and if you already have that one, stay with it. It includes pretty much the same footage; the DC just integrates the material into the film, an effort that doesn’t change things in any substantial way. This DVD serves little purpose.

To rate this film, visit the Superbit review of HOLLOW MAN

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main