There is never a DVD which would find producer Marc Ostrick slumming for cash with which to pay his bills. In every documentary he’s made for DVDs such as “Daredevil”, “School of Rock”, and the “24” and “The Shield” sets, there’s as much detail to make you feel like you’re on the set, that you were there and witnessed the moments that were alternately joyful and trying for cast and crew involved in it. With “Hollow Man 2”, Ostrick got the far better deal than director Claudio Faeh who has a brimming enthusiasm for special effects and the work involved in making them happen, but is stuck with an awful, clichéd script by Joel Soisson, who’s written his share of horror sequels and clearly has never thought outside what is expected.
Peter Facinelli, who I watch at every chance in the hopes that he once again rises to the level of Bob Walker in “The Big Kahuna”, plays Frank Turner, the typical police detective who isn’t happy when other people step in front of his work, taking it away from him. In this case, it’s a scientist murdered at a high-level social function by an invisible man. The event, innocuous, populated with champagne glasses, and led by Citizens for a Stronger America, looks like one of those gatherings where much money will be donated, but nothing will actually get done. Turner enters the restroom where the deed was done, but moments after, the Department of Defense walks in, taking over the case. Secrets the government needs to hide? In a way, yes, if not for the ominous rich evil man, Reisner (David McIlwraith) who seems to control the police force, SWAT team and whatever army figures he comes across, including Colonel Gavin Bishop (William MacDonald) who knows plenty about the invisible man who attacked the scientist. This is also an opportunity for a weak pointed commentary by Soisson on how power should not be abused for the sake of “national security.”
Turner and his partner Lisa Martinez (Sarah Deakins) are then assigned to protect Maggie Dalton, a biologist (Laura Regan) who worked for Reisner, but was let go three months prior. She may be the invisible man’s next target. As we find out later, Mr. Invisibility is Michael Griffin (Christian Slater), a former soldier who served Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, and who willingly submitted to an experiment seemingly designed toward creating an invisible soldier, the ultimate step toward solidifying national security. Soisson makes that part of the plot disappear in a sea of action sequences and visual effects, easy for him to write, which are tempered by director Faeh’s enthusiasm for what can be in this sequel. First-person shots are constant, as Griffin stalks the biologist and others, and the invisible effects aren’t as bad or as cheap looking as “direct-to-DVD” may indicate just by the definition of that.
Facinelli and Regan are the worst victims of Soisson’s clichés. Soon, both are on the run together, getting away from an encroaching police force and partial military, and especially Reisner, who apparently has a business secret in all this that cannot be revealed, lest he be the one in worse trouble than anyone else for this. The usual story with the usual characters. It becomes more wearisome as Turner and Dalton endure more and more. More chase scenes, more colorless exposition, and some shaky camera movements. A game of “Where Did That Line Come From?” while listening to the characters speak could even be played to stave off boredom. Which direct-to-video sequel had it before? (Cheating optional, as Soisson knows a lot about those) What was the first movie where a man and a woman in danger had to join together to survive? Keep asking questions like that to yourself and among friends to get through this one.
Usually this would be the DVD for cast members to be so happy to work with each other, to say how great their co-stars were. Not here. Producer Ostrick decides that since the effects and the story are the mildly interesting parts of the movie, that’s what the documentary should feature. And he features everything possible about the effects. Faeh admits that he’s not an actor’s director and it shows in stunning knowledge about how special effects work and in a separate featurette on the DVD, expounding on the purpose of storyboards. You’ll never learn as much about push-pull poles on any other DVD. It’s literally the best tutorial on special effects done on a low budget. Not as low as an indie horror film, of course, but with this production and how they leaned more toward real action during production, erasing the wires and poles in post-production, Faeh’s concentration on all of it is most impressive and so is Ostrick’s dedication toward making sure viewers know the most about what they’re watching. By the way he and his team have formed this documentary, Ostrick is a teacher in his own right, making sure that even though the movie might not be up to par (and here, it’s so below par that a golf course could be built on it), viewers should at least get some value from it. 90% of the time, these cheapie sequels are never a good idea, not even a fair idea, but at least it gives people like Marc Ostrick a job among many jobs. Now if he could only produce all the documentaries that studios set up for these sequels.