Hollow Point (1996)
So, this is the last film in my Thomas Ian Griffith triple feature, and it’s odd that in each successive movie his hair gets shorter and shorter. Also, each of these films have some very impressive names attached to the cast. This time, we’ve got John Lithgow and Donald Sutherland, so, there’s certainly talent on screen worth watching. Hollow Point sees Griffith going pretty crazy with a full charge of charisma in a film I wasn’t expecting to be what it was. Let’s see what it is that it happened to be.
FBI Agent Diane Norwood (Tia Carrere) is ready to do almost anything, even to spoil her own wedding, in order to bring down Livingston (John Lithgow), a major money launderer. In the course of her dogged investigation she runs into the audacious DEA Agent Max Parish (Thomas Ian Griffith) who also wants Livingston. After the two of them reluctantly join forces, they track down Garret Lawton (Donald Sutherland), one of Livingston’s disgruntled hitmen, to help bring him down.
After the conspiracy cop thriller and the Die Hard clone from Griffith, we now get something that tonally veers off in a wild direction. I went into this expecting a fairly serious action movie, but right in the first fifteen minutes, you’ve both Griffith and Sutherland being all kinds of off-the-wall crazy. A Russian Mafioso is smuggled around town, after slipping back into the country, in a casket, and the Max Parish character hijacks his hearse in an effort to interrogate him. In a chase down a stairwell after this, Sutherland’s assassin character Lawton practically cackles and prances around like a nutjob chased by Agent Norwood while Parish rides a window washer’s harness down spouting out jokes. I was laughing my ass off. This is all just plain nuts based solely on Griffith and Sutherland, and this is them just getting warmed up. This is a movie that just knows how to have fun with itself, and I was happy to indulge in it.
Hollow Point ultimately is a buddy cop movie where, absolutely, neither Parish nor Norwood like each other in the least. They are adversarial to the point of sabotaging one another until they reluctantly agree to work together, but even then, they continually butt heads for many reasons. Parish is practically certifiably nuts doing nothing but unorthodox stunts every step of the way, and Norwood feels very dedicated and straight arrow, up to a point. So, it is the classic personality clash dynamic which stirs up friction and entertainment value. Hollow Point is, by very far, no Lethal Weapon, but it’s certainly a whole lot of fun.
As I already touched upon, Thomas Ian Griffith really cuts loose with all of his charisma. Max Parish is ultimately a guy working outside the bounds of the law to his own ends, and so, he’s going for broke at every turn. Thus, he’s greatly unpredictable and spontaneous which facilitates Griffith to throw everything into this performance to make it endlessly fun and exciting. There’s very little opportunity for drama to seep into the Max Parish character as the film really drives for the fun and laughs, but there are a few light, fleeting moments of seriousness that he slips in and out of smoothly.
Yet, as crazy as Griffith is here, Donald Sutherland is full blown whacky. There is not a scene where he isn’t grinning like he’s gotten a snout full of Nitrous Oxide, and just being the nuttiest hitman you’ve ever seen. Sutherland was clearly having an incredibly fun time playing this role with all the eccentricities and flare possible. The flipside of that is John Lithgow doing a fairy straight villain performance, but it’s rather middle of the road. He has lightly humorous moments along with grounded serious ones. After seeing him in both Cliffhanger and Ricochet, I know he can do bad ass bad guy wickedly, but this outing here is nothing special, yet I was glad to have him there. He made the character more interesting and entertaining just by him being in it, and goes the extra mile in the climax.
As you might expect, Tia Carrere is not the most convincing tough federal agent. She certainly plays the role to the best of her ability, and is competent in all the action scenes. However, despite her best efforts, I couldn’t be fully sold on the casting choice. The Diane Norwood role was better suited for someone with more inherent toughness, charisma, and savvy. Sandwiched in between Griffith and Sutherland chewing up scenery with full-tilt vibrancy, Carrere doesn’t really standout at all. She has some decent moments that gain her some credibility, though. Plus, she and Griffith have pretty good chemistry, and she handles the humorous moments sufficiently. I just think there was a stronger casting choice available somewhere for this character, but Carrere’s sex appeal is mildly on display, answering some of the questions of why she was chosen.
The story here is almost unimportant as most of the screentime is really devoted to the buddy cop style antics of Parish, Norwood, and Lawton. Lots of banter, silly moments, and mild scheming to plot against Livingston is all that’s really at play here. Some people want his money for their own gain, and someone else just wants to see him locked up in a jail cell. The movie does not intend to engage you with its story, and rightfully so. Hollow Point is all about its crazy personalities, fun action, and humorous tone.
Even the editing of this movie, with all of its cheesy wipes, goes for the comedy aesthetic, and ultimately, that’s the way you need to take this movie. It doesn’t really push for dramatic storytelling or really intense thrills. It is designed to just have fun with it, and that’s not a surprise from the director of The Taking of Beverly Hills, another B-movie Die Hard clone. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t good action and plenty of explosions. Griffith doesn’t get more than two brief moments of martial arts action as it’s all gunplay and car chases, but the action has some very good production values. The climax really gives you a solid bang for your buck with a lot of fun scenarios, action-packed sequences, and a slightly quirky four-persona standoff. Of the Thomas Ian Griffith movies I’ve now reviewed here with Excessive Force and Crackerjack, this one is the most lively fun, but also, the stupidest of the lot in all the best ways.
Hollow Point just ends up being purely dumb fun that you might enjoy on cable some night. It’s good to have some laughs with and just enjoy the light-hearted action. By no means would this have been a box office success, but it’s perfect direct-to-video entertainment. Since this tightly focused look at Thomas Ian Griffith’s has been about assessing his action star potential, I think the only thing that kept him below the radar and mostly in the direct-to-video world was the quality of the scripts. It would seem like, even with the screenplay he did for Excessive Force, there wasn’t anything strong enough to jump out and grab attention. He also didn’t work with especially talented directors. Van Damme worked with Peter Hyams and John Woo, Steven Seagal worked with Andrew Davis and Dwight Little, Bruce Willis had John McTiernan, Renny Harlin, and Tony Scott, and the list goes on. Griffith got the director of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace and Iron Eagle I, II, & IV. He undoubtedly had every talent needed to be that breakout action movie star with the great martial arts skills, the acting ability to do straight, dimensional drama, charismatic wit, and really light-hearted humor. He had it all, but no one ever paired him up with the right filmmakers to encapsulate all of his potential in one explosive hit. As for Hollow Point, it’s certainly not a good movie, but it entertained me greatly with plenty of laughs. However, I’m eager to get back to reviewing some theatrically released action films.