When a U.S. congressman's daughter passing through a small town in Mississippi dies in a mysterious triple homicide, a team of F.B.I. agents descends to investigate, the team's brilliant but jaded lead agent battling demons both past and present, as his beautiful, tough-as-nails partner tries to hold him and the case together.
October 6, 2016
William Sadler as Sheriff Beau McKinney
William Forsythe as Big John Dawson
Jeff Fahey as Darryl Everett
James Callis as Vaughn Killinger
Do you think jokes about the American south are dumb and tribalistic? Then don’t see The Hollow, written, directed, and starring Miles Doleac. Do you think they’re hilarious? Then don’t see The Hollow. Seriously, even as B-movie schlock this is an exercise in tedium. It’s been decades since John Grisham’s southern thrillers, yet Doleac seems determined to regress this sub sub sub-genre back to the larval stage.
FBI Agent Vaughn Killinger, (James Callis, of mid-aughts Battlestar Galactica fame), travels to a small town in Mississippi with his partner Agent Sarah Desoto, (Christiane Seidel), to solve the murder of a U.S. Congressman’s daughter. There they butt heads with a corrupt sheriff, (Miles Doleac), and a drug kingpin, (a very tired William Forsythe). People talk, and walk, and sit, and cry, and piss and moan for two hours, and then it ends. This is a procedural thriller that neither thrills nor proceeds anywhere.
With the exception of Callis, all of the distinguished character actors are listless in their rolls. William Sadler, (the stuttering Heywood from The Shawshank Redemption, as well as half a dozen better films), appears for a few scenes to say the same thing over and over again, only worded slightly different. Such a tragic waste of talent.
I’ve loved William Forsythe since Raising Arizona. Hell, he even managed to be oily charming in the delightfully stupid The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag. But here his performance is a labored, dull, paunchy pile of mumbling crime boss clichés. My god, man. What happened?
Had the performances been more energized, they may have elevated the material. Stranger things have happened, (I’m looking at you Stranger Things). But absolutely nothing could save this script, which doesn’t feel like first draft material, so much as story balloons. There is no rising action, no important plot turns that lead to an exciting climax. So many of the character beats are repetitious, and they don’t push the story forward one iota. About halfway through, I found myself wondering when the movie was going to start. That’s not a good sign.
The nadir of the poor writing is the part director Doleac himself plays, Sheriff Ray Everett. First let me say, Doleac is a strong actor. Clearly he wants to showcase his talents on screen. But he does this at the expense of everything else. When we first meet Ray, (the first scene of the movie), he receives a blowjob from an underage girl in his police car, while simultaneously selling meth to a gangbanger. The actor side wanted something “meaty” to play, so the writer side ignored relevance and tone. Everett is not the main character of this movie, he is a subplot.
Structural misfires like this continue throughout The Hollow. Our actual main character Agent Killinger is introduced way too late in the first act, forcing actor James Callis to overcompensate. We are breathlessly told his tragic backstory, rather than shown the important things we need to know. Killinger had an affair with his partner, Agent Desoto. Now he is divorced, drinking, and fighting for custody of his kid. No matter how much Callis emotes, chews the scenery, and vomits all over himself, it’s just too late for me to care.
Many of these weaknesses could be forgiven, if the movie had an intriguing murder mystery. But Doleac doesn’t even bother to show us the investigation. Along with the Congressman’s daughter, there are two other victims discovered at the crime scene. One of them is the girl Ray slept with in his police car. Once again, a potentially intriguing subplot. But Doleac treats us to not one, not two, but three scenes of Ray fighting with his wife about his affair. We get it. He’s a dick. Can we move on to something interesting? Doleac doesn’t even show us the killer.
But probably the most obnoxious part of The Hollow is how little Doleac develops any of the female characters. They only exist to scold, screw, or mother the men. I honestly couldn’t tell you if Christiane Seidel is a good actor or not, her Agent Desoto is so poorly written. She is an emotional punching bag for Killinger, with no clear motivation of her own. I’ve seen better female characters in Bond movies.
Adding insult to injury is the condescending treatment of the American south. The Mississippi locals are all hypocritical Evangelicals, spouting Bible-thumping platitudes as soon as say “hello”. I lived in Oklahoma for sixteen years. I can safely say actual people live in the flyover states. Not one-dimensional, redneck ghouls. Doleac wants to make some profound statement about the brainwashing of the United States by Christianity, but his dialogue is far too hackneyed for that.
Directing-wise, The Hollow feels like it was shot for efficiency rather than artistry. Most scenes are just one or two setups. Long, boring tracking shots that don’t even capture the actor’s faces half the time. Firearms don’t look realistic, costumes don’t look believable. The whole affair comes off as a cheapie, the kind of movie that would’ve been direct-to-video back in the days of Blockbuster. Now you’d probably find this one on Netflix under “Because you liked Twin Peaks”.
The Hollow is currently available on VOD.