Hollow Man 1 & 2
Hollow Man (May 20/06)
Given that Paul Verhoeven directed two of the best science-fiction films to ever come out of Hollywood - 1987's Robocop and 1990's Total Recall - it's fairly difficult not to feel somewhat disappointed with the filmmaker's most recent stab at the genre, Hollow Man. While it never quite reaches the depths of flat-out badness (unlike its truly atrocious sequel), the movie remains surprisingly uninvolving - despite the inclusion of a seemingly sure-fire premise and an electrifying performance from star Kevin Bacon. Bacon plays Sebastian Caine, a brilliant scientist who - along with his ragtag team of researchers - has developed a serum that successfully allows the user to become completely invisible. After testing it out on an ape, Sebastian decides to inject himself with the potion and emerges the world's first transparent man - though, as he soon discovers, reversing the process isn't quite as easy. Hollow Man is, for a while, awfully engaging and genuinely interesting - something that's particularly true of the opening half hour, which deals primarily with the efforts of Sebastian and his team to perfect the serum. The impressive special effects - which still hold up today - certainly go a long way towards keeping things intriguing, while quirky performances from folks like Greg Grunberg and Joey Slotnick help disguise the general lack of character development among periphery characters. Having said that, the film's abrupt shift from thriller to flat-out horror doesn't entirely work; screenwriter Andrew W. Marlowe's decision to pack this portion of the story with some of the genre's hoariest cliches proves to be disastrous (ie the survivors split up almost immediately after learning of Sebastian's murderous intentions). Still, one can't help but admire the glee with which Verhoeven has imbued the film's more disgusting moments - though there's simply no denying that Hollow Man comes up short in pretty much every other way.
Hollow Man II (May 22/06)
Following a viewing of Hollow Man II, one can't help but appreciate the subtlety and nuance of Paul Verhoeven's comparatively masterful predecessor. The movie, which hardly even feels like a sequel, follows a grizzled police officer (Peter Facinelli) and a research scientist (Laura Regan) as they attempt to put a stop to the murderous rampage of soldier-turned-invisible-man Michael Griffin (Christian Slater). The majority of Hollow Man II plays out like a typical straight-to-video cop thriller - a bad straight-to-video cop thriller, at that - with the whole invisibility thing essentially left as an afterthought. The film's lack of budget couldn't possibly be more obvious, particularly in terms of the special effects - which are uniformly atrocious and thoroughly laughable. Slater, who receives third billing, has a grand total of about two-and-a-half minutes worth of screentime, with the majority of his performance limited to emotionless voice-over (there's never the impression that Slater was ever actually on the set apart from his two on-camera sequences). The extraordinarily tired storyline is exacerbated by Joel Soisson's cliched dialogue, and although Facinelli and Regan attempt to bring some life to their scarcely-drawn characters, even the most seasoned pro would have a tough time elevating this material. There's exactly one interesting sequence in all of Hollow Man II - involving Slater's encounter with a deaf woman - but really, this is about as needless and pointless a sequel as they come.