Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hollow Man


For the second stop on my phenomenal Ssssoundssss of Ssssilence concert tour, celebrating the snake in all of us, Joseph promised me a booking in the New Orleans area. I imagined an intime little bistro in the French Quarter with Al Hirt or Pete Fountain leading a topnotch Dixieland combo for backup. Unfortunately, Joseph must have misunderstood for I ended up at The Cajun Crawfish Club down on some godforsaken bayou between Yscloskey and Hopedale with only Wayne Thibedoux on washboard and his cousin Daryl on the spoons. The limousine which whisked me there turned out to be nothing more than a decrepit Crown Victoria yellow cab driven by Abdul, recently arrived from Islamabad who had to keep stopping at Texaco to ask for directions. Joseph and I will have words.

When I arrived, we plugged in my wonderful motorized serpent egg through which I make my grand entrance and blew every fuse in the place. Then a copperhead slithered out of the swamp and battled with one of my back-up dancers and his pet anaconda. Fortunately, Wayne smashed him with the washboard before anyone could be seriously hurt, although the back-up anaconda was quite nervous and had to be given a valium before the show. I changed into my black mamba dress in an ancient airstream that seemed to be home to about thirty further cousins of Wayne and Daryl and did the set and was happy to be off again to the Pontchartrain Hotel (where they lost my reservation, forcing me into the Super 8 next door).

The entertainment choices at the Super 8 were somewhat limited so I had to settle for the cable movie de jour which turned out to be Paul Verhoven's Hollow Man with Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Shue - two appealing actors who have never been more unattractive. This is an update of that old chestnut, The Invisible Man, in which an egomaniacal scientist perfects an invisibility formula and the power it provides goes to his head. Invisibility, as a plot device, goes back to ancient times and was given its modern guise in the H.G. Wells novel from early last century. This version adds nothing new to the canon.

Kevin Bacon plays Sebastian Caine, a brilliant scientist with the requisite super-secret government lab, hidden deep in the bowels of suburban DC. Why films think that secret government labs must be as spacious as Sam's Club remains a mystery. I kept wondering how they paid the power bills on this cavernous space that seems to be mainly unused and why some accountant hadn't insisted that they share space with the VA or HUD as part of a 'reinventing government' scheme. Anyway, Caine is working on perfecting an invisibility formula, cloaked in pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo about 'phase shifting'. The military, of course are interested in the potential of invisible armored divisions; but, as the process seems only to affect the body, I kept having visions of platoons of naked soldiers trying to keep peace in the middle east and going into the giggles.

Caine has a research team including Elizabeth Shue (why do they keep casting her as a scientist? She's as belivable as a brilliant biologist as she was as a cold fusion expert in The Saint) and Josh Brolin. There are three or four others played by nobodies which marks them as immediate cannon fodder. The exposition includes a pretty cool sequence in which an invisible snake kills a rat and where an invisible gorilla comes back layer by layer like one of those anatomy books on acetate. Then we get into the main plot. Caine decides to do the human testing on himself and becomes invisible. The power he now has to sneak up on other people goes to his already melagomaniacal head, made worse by problems in the restorative process. Before long, he's running amok - terrorizing women, murdering folks, and forcing the audience to endure repetitive special effects which make him 'visible' so we don't forget he's there. People are forever throwing liquids on him or breathing cigarette smoke on him or something so we can see him. It's kind of cool the first couple of times, then it's just dull. The film then degenerates into your basic crowbar wielding madman slasher flick as Caine stalks his crew for very obscure reasons.

Paul Verhoven was a filmmaker I used to admire, especially his early films from his native Holland. He's lost none of his film making technique over the years but he has persisted in recent years in wasting his talents on garbage (of which this is a prime example). His misogyny, an underlying element in many of his films (for example Basic Instinct in which all four female characters are bisexual murdering psychos), comes to the fore here with Caine's voyeurism, raping, and with the lack of any recognizable human female among the leads. I'm not sure what Elizabeth Shue is supposed to be playing but it's certainly not a scientist or female.

The script, by Andrew Marlowe, is a by the numbers affair - it exists solely to give a framework to the special effects of appearing and disappearing humans. The audience is always about four steps ahead of the screenplay and the last half plays like a textbook lesson in the art of bad Hollywood script construction. (Unexpected death here. He's not really dead goes here. Last minute shock goes here.)

Kevin Bacon seems to have spent a lot of time running around in the nude in front of a green screen. Although it's amusing to note that the 'invisible' Kevin is anatomically correct in some shots and not in others. How convenient that he found an invisible jock strap at Niemann-Marcus. He glares and pouts and froths at the mouth but we're too busy being amused by the ludicrousness of the whole spectacle to care. I hope he was well paid.

This is one for days when you're stuck at the Super 8 without alternatives - otherwise, skip it.

Invisible snake. Invisible bull dog. Invisible chimp. Invisible gorilla. Porsche convertible. Computer molecular models. Pretty red serum. Pretty blue serum. Gratuitous blood drenching. Swimming pool death. Elevator shaft climbing. Exploding laboratory. Do it yourself electro-magnet. Gratuitous romance subplot. 

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