Title: The Victim
Director: Michael Biehn
Starring: Michael Biehn, Jennifer Blanc, Danielle Harris, Ryan Honey, Denny Kirkwood, Tanya Newbould and Dana Daurey
An unwritten rule of filmmaking is that films are supposed to establish their tone within the first ten minutes. Some manage to follow this rule so closely that the tone is set within the first frame (i.e. – Miami Vice.) For the most viewers, you’ll either stick with it or you’re so far gone the movie can never get you back. With Michael Biehn’s The Victim, there’s such a moment when the first words superimposed on screen are “Based On True Events”, followed by “Not” before the disclaimer. As a film fan, it was tough to fight an applause.
Biehn makes his directorial debut with The Victim and clearly understands what he’s making. Is it something you’ll want to debate afterward? No, but The Victim is content with that. It wants you to relish in its shortcomings, almost asking you to applaud a cheesy performance or an elongated sex scene. In some ways it’s a better callback to grindhouse films than either of Robert Rodiguez’s offerings. Biehn understands this, and even with the limited budget, he makes it a strength for the picture.
The cast seems in on the joke as well, with co-star (and Mrs. Biehn) Jennifer Blanc giving a Russ Meyer-inspired performance that the film embraces. Scream queen Danielle Harris pops up and delivers arguably one of the best deadpan lines in cinema. Ryan Honey and Denny Kirkwood play the antagonists, both of whom embrace their characters with the utmost douchebaggery to make the cast of “Jersey Shore” proud. You don’t like these characters, and you cheer when one is tortured via crowbar in one of the films’ finest scenes.
And of course there’s Michael Biehn himself, playing a more hard-edged character than what we’ve come to know him for. He never fully shows a soft side, even during a sex scene, but he’s not supposed to be. Kyle’s a loner, even awkward, and Biehn never feels like he’s just delivering lines or out of place.
The biggest criticism I have of the film is that it was shot digitally. With the rise of digital cameras and editing software being readily available, it’s become much easier to make movies nowadays and, in theory, anyone can do it. The Victim was shot on the Red One and while I perfectly understand the reasoning, I felt the film would have benefited from being shot on 16mm with true film grain and specs on the images. Perhaps that would have completed the grindhouse experience for the picture, but the digital look makes the images too clean.
That said, that’s more of a minor quibble than it is a fault of the movie itself. The Victim knows that it wants to accomplish and does so very spectacularly. It’s an entertaining movie, one that appreciates its sleaze rather than tries to shy from it. Biehn isn’t concerned with changing the course of cinema, but rather showing what he can accomplish when given a micro budget.
It also makes me excited to see what he could do when he has more money behind his pictures. Most first time directors show signs of promise, and while Biehn hasn’t made a perfect movie, he’s definitely shown he knows what he’s doing and has established himself as a director to keep an eye on. For this reason alone, The Victim deserves attention. There just happens to be an entertaining romp of grindhouse inside of it.
Technical – B+
Acting – B
Story – B
Overall – B