Film (2000). Columbia Pictures/Global Entertainment Productions. Directed by Paul Verhoeven. Written by Andrew W Marlowe; story by Gary Scott Thompson and Marlowe. Cast includes Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg and Elizabeth Shue. 112 minutes. Colour.
The arrogant head of a military-funded research team tests their Invisibility serum on himself, descending into murderous psychosis after the effects prove irreversible.
Verhoeven's last Hollywood film was a for-hire studio job, which he would go on to deprecate after his return to Holland. A technically impressive and characteristically brutal exploration of invisibility in a consciously Wellsian vein, it is hobbled by a dispiritingly formulaic screenplay and a deliberate reining-in of Verhoeven's trademark strain of drily comedic dark slapstick. But if the script is a much more conservative product than his earlier US films, Verhoeven's creative nastiness and flair for moral and visual shock are amply displayed in the satisfyingly repellent antihero's abandonment of barriers as he experiments with rape and killing – making it all the more disappointing that most of the action is confined to the enclosed space of the laboratory and a finite team of colleagues, rather than roaming free in the outside world as in Wells. Its narrative flaws notwithstanding, it remains the modern benchmark in invisibility effects, with painstaking motion-control camerawork and sensationally effective layer-by-Vesalian-layer transformation sequences. A low-budget DVD sequel Hollow Man II was released in 2006, with an off-the-shelf policier plot suggesting unfulfilled aspirations to an afterlife on television. [NL]
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