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Hollow Man (2000)



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Someday Paul Verhoeven will make a movie I will like without reservation. For the first two thirds of Hollow Man, I thought this would be it. Hollow Man has a four star first act, a three star second, and a final act that ruins it all. Not since Snake Eyes have I seen a movie that started so well end so badly.

It's about a team of scientists that learn how to turn animals invisible but not necessarily how to turn them back. The first third of the movie captivated my imagination. It's suspenseful and contains some amazing visual effects, but most importantly it inspired me with the thought behind the premise (tough to do with an idea that's been used in movies for 70 years and even longer in literature) and the possibilities of the technology.

In the second act, a human is given the invisibility treatment. There is some interesting psychological tension as the character, who was not especially scrupulous anyway, may or may not be going mad. Though solid enough to carry the momentum the film has already built, this section is weaker than the beginning. Verhoeven, true to form, becomes sidetracked from the amazing possibilities of invisibility by indulging in sensationalistic episodes.

In the third act, everything gets thrown away as the film evolves into an absurd slasher flick with all the absence of thought and tension the term implies. The logistics are laughable. Granted, the Villain Who Never Dies is an established tradition of action thrillers, but this guy survives prolonged exposure to a flamethrower, a smack to the head with a metal rod, electrocution, and being in the center of an explosion that takes out multiple stories of a research facility, and I haven't even gotten started on what the goodguys survive. (Hint: If the orange part of an explosion doesn't actually touch you, it's not hot.) Complaints of logic aside, why on earth employ a thoughtful, inspiring concept in the services of a slasher flick, anyway? The possibilities are endless, and yet the film ends with things we have seen before and seen better.

Almost, I want to recommend the film anyway, just because the first half is so good, but I just can't do it. And it's a shame, because the visual effects are easily the best "invisible man" effects I've seen, technically and creatively.

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