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paul verhoeven , the dutch auteur who dragged his violent , sexually aggressive aesthetic into american film , has never been what i'd consider a thoughtful director ( though some of his films , notably starship troopers , have been lauded as artistic achievements ) , but he is the kind of hollywood film maker who's managed to , no matter what the budget , make his films distinctive and even sometimes smuggle stimulating themes into the lavish high concepts on which he toils .
starship troopers was essentially a b-monster movie remake of his enthralling dutch war film soldier of orange ( a great film that's nearly impossible to find on video , yet showgirls is everywhere ) , in which he cast a troop of stunningly attractive mannequins ; the square jawed casper van dien and denise richards ( who may actually be 45% silicone ) , in what feels like an american propaganda picture set to monotonous scenes of graphic carnage .
it's not a completely successful film , but as a failure it's certainly an interesting ( and mostly entertaining ) one .
my favorite verhoeven films were the ones he made before he hit our shores ; spetters , a dark near pornographic coming of age film set within the sub-culture of drag racing and the aforementioned soldier of orange ( haven't yet gotten around to seeing the 4th man or turkish delight ) .
i believe his best hollywood film to be robocop , a bleak super-hero satire with a robotic hero that's as touching as schwarzenegger's in t2 .
that movie was violent but not in the overdone cartoonish manner of more recent verhoeven pics .
its violence seemed to be there for a purpose , namely to create an atmosphere of unpredictable dread , not to simply titillate an attention deprived audience .
there's a jaw-dropping scene within the first ten minutes of robocop wherein the lead villain toys with a cop before snuffing him .
he tortures the officer by taking glee in his victim's every fearful tic .
it's a startling moment of barbaric , maddening violence that effectively sets the tone for the film that could be designated as splatter punk-noir .
in hollow man kevin bacon brutally slays a dog because it just won't shut up , he impales a co-worker , drowns another and so on .
but why ?
his character is introduced as a smug genius , the kind who's always impeccably dressed and races a sports car while generic rock tunes blare from his stereo for the world to hear , sort of like a scheming uber villain from dallas or melrose place , though once the character becomes invisible , this film has him pull a 180 shift into a psychotic movie monster .
the kind who just won't die .
hollow man's protagonists are the completely bland but beautiful scientist linda ( elizabeth shue , acting as if she were rebecca of sunnybrook farm ) and her lover , a hunk of beef scientist played by josh brolin who's saddled with the film's worst lines ( " i've lost cohesion again ! " ) .
they're a typical aaron spelling couple , good-looking but as vacant as george w . bush's republican national convention speech ( i . e .
bush referring to clinton ; " ? ? ? so much promise ? ? ? but to what end ?
to what end ? " --
this actually got applause !
suddenly warren beatty doesn't look so absurd ) .
the rest of the film's characters are all well past thirty , though act like annoying high school party animals insulting one and other with a series of strained one-liners ; is it just me or have labored insults become big budget hollywood's new character developing technique ?
ahh , what a cynical time we live in ? ? ?
as the picture opens we meet cain ( kevin bacon ) , an egocentric scientist working with the crew of aforementioned irritating scientists on a top secret ( so top secret the government has only provided them with a dilapidated warehouse in which to perform their extensive experimentation's ) project with the goal to make invisibility a possibility ( for what purpose is never hinted at ) .
they've performed several experiments on animals and have nearly solved the quandary causing caine , in a twist worthy of the film's 1950's late show origins , to impulsively experiment on himself .
caine neglects to let the pentagon in on his plans and somehow gets two of his co-workers to lie for him so the rest of the crew will think the pentagon gave the go ahead .
our mad scientist is turned invisible ( after several fx-heavy complications ) , then he inexplicably ( it's hinted that the process of invisibility has made the animals into more savage creatures , but this is never explored , and if that was the case why the hell would anyone be stupid enough to test this out on a human ? )
begins raping , assaulting and murdering anyone he pleases , always with a lame wisecrack ready a la freddy krueger .
it grows abundantly clear with each new release that it's verhoeven's films that have become hollow .
like the rest , this one is cold , heartless , and full of contempt for humanity , but in addition to all that it lacks any trace of wit , insight and makes no statement other than " audiences will pay for anything these days " .
it's an affront to anyone looking for something stimulating on an intellectual level , or even those hoping to spend a saturday night with a fun , thrill-a-minute ride .
verhoeven has instead served up an utterly routine mad slasher flick with nobody to root for and no reason to care .
the previews make hollow man look like an irresistible flick .
how can one not have a good time at a film that utilizes state of the art fx to illustrate an invisible man getting down and dirty with his bad self ?
a couple weeks ago , after seeing the trailer , a bunch of friends and i got into a long discussion of how invisible man flicks never go so far as to have the invisible individual indulging in their newfound ability .
hollow man looked like the first film to do so and whoa , in a serious manner to boot .
but oh yeah , it is directed by paul verhoven not atom egoyan or peter greenway .
verhoeven delivers the sleazy " goods " , but not in a watchable or thrillingly disturbing manner , here it just feels icky and uncomfortable .
the director keeps his camera trained at his nubile actresses , caressing their breasts with his lens all while faux-psycho music strains in the background .
it's plainly obvious that verhoeven isn't exploring voyeurism ( like in the classic peeping tom ) but exploiting it and not even doing that very well .
it's funny that with all the technology $90 million can get you verhoven is stuck at trying to figure out how to show a woman's naked breast manipulated by an invisible hand .
most vexing is that the invisibility aspect is used simply as gimmick in yet another slasher movie wherein characters do stupid things just so the villain can pop up for more attacks .
in fact it's largely irrelevant that bacon is invisible since , by the end , most of his potential victims don infer-red glasses that track his body heat .
as in every mad slasher film we get the killers pov ( a scene where he spies on his neighbor while she undresses triggered unpleasant memories of slumber party massacre ) , and lots of scenes where people are unknowingly stalked .
the film only provides one moment that i found genuinely creepy .
it happens when a lab assistant ( kim dickens , who looks like she stepped out of playboy ) in the middle of a chit chat with an invisible bacon , suddenly pauses .
" are you looking at me ? " , she queries , obviously haunted .
it's a little moment in a big film with nothing to offer but ground breaking special effects set to a plot that should have run its course by 1982 ( the apex of the mad slasher craze ) .
those special effects are so stunning they alone keep this from being as bad as urban legend or i still know what you did last summer .
and they're the only reason to check out hollow man , preferably as a mid-week bargain rental .
you've been warned .
but you probably won't listen , will you ?
tis' a pity ? ? ?