Hollow Man

USA/Germany 2000

Reviewed by David Thompson


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Working in a secret underground laboratory funded by the Pentagon in Washington DC, scientist Sebastian Caine has created a serum that can make living creatures invisible. With the aid of his team, which includes his former lover Linda McKay, he experiments on animals, but so far is unable to bring them back from a state of invisibility. He finally works out a reversal formula, which he successfully tests on a gorilla. When he reports to his boss at the Pentagon, Dr Kramer, Caine lies about this breakthrough, fearing his funds will be cut off. He returns to his team, declaring they have approval to move on to Phase Three, in which he himself will be given the serum.

Caine is made invisible, but the reversal procedure proves a failure. His irresponsible nature comes to the fore, and he escapes to his apartment, and then gains access to the flat of a neighbour, whom he assaults. Tampering with a video camera to convince his team he is still in the laboratory, Caine then spies on McKay, discovering that her new lover is a senior member of his team, Matthew Kensington. McKay finds out about Caine's deception, and she and Kensington visit Dr Kramer to reveal what has happened. Caine then kills Dr Kramer before he can speak to anybody. Returning to the laboratory, Caine begins to murder his team one by one and plants a time bomb. McKay manages to avoid his traps and, believing she has killed Caine with jets of fire, escapes to the lift shaft with a wounded Kensington. Caine reappears, and just as he demands a final kiss from her, she manages to send him plunging to his death.


With Hollow Man director Paul Verhoeven has delivered exactly the kind of special-effects movie that Hollywood wants - violent, action-driven, but with just enough restraint in the sexual domain to please the MPAA ratings board. After the relative box-office failures of Showgirls and Starship Troopers, Hollow Man finds the director living up to his reputation of being a superior craftsman, while eradicating the confrontational elements of his previous films. Verhoeven has invoked Plato here in suggesting that invisibility would cause a man to abuse power, but though there are a few instances of the camera as sexual voyeur, the 'bad boy' elements of his make-up are rarely apparent. Just as the invisible scientist Caine creeps up on his half-naked neighbour, the scene cuts away, leaving us to imagine the worst. Once Verhoeven would have shown the consequences of Caine's actions, and then led us to question who is morally more questionable: the film-maker or the audience? In Hollow Man the issue is simply avoided.

Much of the blame for the relative blandness of Hollow Man must be placed on Andrew Marlowe's script. Marlowe (End of Days) fails to provide either characters or a plot with any shading or surprises. Caine moves from an arrogant scientist to a psychotic killer consumed with sexual jealousy without much of a gear shift. In James Whale's classic 1933 film version of H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man, the scientist-hero becomes mad as a side effect of the drugs he's been trying out. He also has insane plans for world domination, and given Hollow Man's Washington setting, Marlowe seems to be missing a trick: why doesn't Caine use his invisibility to infiltrate the Pentagon or even spy on the president, a rich territory for voyeuristic gags, surely?

Instead, the final act of Hollow Man becomes a claustrophobic battle between Caine's bland colleagues and a malevolent 'thing' in their midst. Caine's main adversary, McKay, comes across as little more than an enterprising head girl, while the banter between the embattled scientists is in need of some Hawksian verve, particularly given their mantra-like response to any situation: "Oh, shit."

On the positive side, Hollow Man demonstrates that Verhoeven remains masterful at integrating state-of-the-art special effects into a rigorous, Hitchcockian mise en scène. Working with his regular collaborators, the director gives the visuals a hard, metallic texture. He heightens human flesh tones to give his actors a waxy gloss, so that when their bodies are penetrated, the impact of the wounds is intensified. Verhoeven has always had a brutalist attitude to the human form, and it is the scenes of bodily transformation that have the greatest intensity here. The reduction of the body of a man to bone, muscular tissue and blood vessels as it shifts in and out of invisibility is strikingly beautiful, like a series of animated Vesalius drawings. The disappointment of Hollow Man is that this is the only real depth the film achieves.


Paul Verhoeven
Douglas Wick
Alan Marshall
Andrew W. Marlowe
Gary Scott Thompson
Andrew W. Marlowe
Director of Photography
Jost Vacano
Mark Goldblatt
Production Designer
Allan Cameron
Music/Music Conductor
Jerry Goldsmith
©Global Entertainment Productions GmbH & Co. Movie KG.
Production Company
Columbia Pictures presents a Douglas Wick production
Executive Producer
Marion Rosenberg
Stacy Lumbrezer
Associate Producer
Kenneth Silverstein
Production Co-ordinators
Mitchell Bell
Washington DC:
Katherine Dorrer
Unit Production Manager
Robert Latham Brown
Location Manager
William Bowling
2nd Unit Director
Scott E. Anderson
Assistant Directors
Louis D'Esposito
Michael Viglietta
Shari Hanger
2nd Unit:
Thomy Harper
Script Supervisors
Haley McLane
2nd Unit:
Dea Cantú
Howard Feuer
ADR Group Voice:
The Loop Troop
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Anette Haellmigk
Camera Operators
Tommy Yatsko
Motion Control:
Eric Pascarelli
2nd Unit:
Phillip Carr-Forster
Steadicam Operator
Mark Emery Moore
Senior Visual Effects
Scott E. Anderson
Susan MacLeod
Visual Effects
Craig Hayes
Jody Rogers
Special Visual Effects
Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc
Tippett Studio
Amalgamated Dynamics Inc.
Computer Graphics Imagery/Video Display
Banned From The Ranch Entertainment
Additional Visual Effects
Rhythm and Hues Studios, Inc.
Full Body Scanning
Cyber F/X Inc
Hydrodynamic Motion Control
General Lift
Joe Lewis
Travelling Matte Technology
Composite Components Company
Special Effects
Stan Parks
2nd Unit Supervisor:
Richard Stutsman
Set Supervisor:
William Aldridge
Shop Supervisor:
Hans Metz
Salvy Maleki
Larz Anderson
Larry Deunger
Johnny Fontana
Mike Paris
Justin Parks
Bruce Richter
David Rohrer
Paul Sabourin
Hydraulic Design Supervisor
Mark Yuricich
Supervising Puppeteer
Alec Gillis
Lead Puppeteer
Yuri Everson
Dave Penikas
Steve Frakes
Christine Papalexis
Alison Mork
Tony Matijevich
Kevin McTurk
Andy Schoneberg
Garth Winkless
John Lundberg
Kristin Charney
Greg Manion
Associate Film Editor
Ian Slater
Art Director
Dale Allan Pelton
Set Designer
Daniel R. Jennings
Set Decorator
John M. Dwyer
Storyboard Artist
Giacomo Ghiazza
Costume Designer
Ellen Mirojnick
Costume Supervisor
James Tyson
Make-up Supervisor
Whitney L. James
Luisa Abel
Appliance Make-up
Barry R. Koper
Make-up Effects Design/Creations
Alec Gillis
Tom Woodruff Jr
Hair Supervisor
Martin Samuel
D.J. Plumb
Rita Troy
Main Titles Design
The Picture Mill
Alexander Courage
Music Editors
Kenny Hall
Darrell Hall
Music Recordist/Mixer
Bruce Botnick
Synthesizer Programmer
Nick Vidar
"Power Struggle" - Sunna; "Hotels" - Juliana Hatfield; "Jaguar" - Boss Hog; "Charlie Big Potato" - Skunk Anansie
Sound Mixer
Joseph Geisinger
Re-recording Mixers
Michael Minkler
Gary Gegan
Supervising Sound Editor
Scott A. Hecker
Supervising Dialogue Editors
Michael J. Benavente
Hugo Weng
Sound Effects Editors
Eric A. Norris
Brian Thomas Nist
Jason W. Jennings
Kenneth L. Johnson
Gary L. Krause
Bradley C. Katona
Special Sound Effects
John Fasal
Charleen Richards
Supervising Editor:
Susan Dudeck
Linda Folk
Richard Duarte
Christopher Flick
Mark Papas
Gary Hecker
Matt Dettmann
Technical Adviser
Donna Cline
Stunt Co-ordinators
Gary Combs
Gil Combs
Animal Handlers
Shelley Davis
Elizabeth McMullen
DeAnn Zarkowski
Elisabeth Shue
Linda McKay
Kevin Bacon
Sebastian Caine
Josh Brolin
Matthew Kensington
Kim Dickens
Sarah Kennedy
Greg Grunberg
Carter Abbey
Joey Slotnick
Frank Chase
Mary Randle
Janice Walton
William Devane
Doctor Kramer
Rhona Mitra
Sebastian's neighbour
Pablo Espinosa
warehouse guard
Margot Rose
Mrs Kramer
Jimmie F. Skaggs
Jeffrey George Scaperotta
boy in car
Sarah Bowles
girl in car
Kelli Scott
Steve Altes
J. Patrick McCormack
General Caster
Darius A. Sultan
gate guard
Tom Woodruff Jr
Isabelle the gorilla
David Vogt
helicopter pilot
Gary Hecker
gorilla vocals
Columbia Tristar Films (UK)
10,116 feet
112 minutes 24 seconds
Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS-8
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011