Michael Biehn’s The Victim is a grim and gritty grindhouse-style thriller. The actor-turned-director shows that years spent hanging around film sets with the likes of James Cameron, Michael Bay and Robert Rodriguez have paid off, as he has turned into a proficient director.
The set-up for The Victim is simple; Biehn’s Kyle lives alone in a cabin in the words, but he is disturbed by Annie (Jennifer Blanc) a damsel in distress who says that her friend (Danielle Harris) has been killed by crooked cops – and now they are after her. Kyle doesn’t want to help at first, but he is drawn into the situation…
As actors, Biehn and Jennifer Blanc (who produces) share some good chemistry (just as well considering that they are married), while Ryan Honey brings the right amount of sleaze to his role as the corrupt cop who will stop at nothing to save reputation. Each character is multi-layered and morally ambiguous. This puts the viewer in a moral quandary – a nice touch which makes the film far from black and white.
The Victim wears its low budget genre roots on its sleeve and Biehn doesn’t pull any punches, filling the film with sex and violence. It’s an old fashioned film for sure, one which is mostly set in single location, a move which helps to ratchet up the tension. As a director, Biehn makes some brave directorial choices, filling the film with long tracking shots and dialogue scenes, which in most modern films would be cut down to nothing. However, here they add an almost hypnotic Hitchcockian feel to proceedings.
Visually, the film is strong. Often low budget films shot digitally appear flat and too crisp, but The Victim has a good depth and texture to it. Biehn has an eye for detail and it will be interesting to see what he could do with a film which has a wider-scope and a larger budget.
The Victim won’t be for everyone, the lack of fast editing may sideline younger viewers and the easily offended may want to look elsewhere. However, The Victim wasn’t made for them, it was made for the genre connoisseurs who like their films down and dirty.
A 25 minute behind the scenes documentary shows that The Victim is a passion project for all involved. It covers all aspects of production, showing how Biehn and Blanc managed to get the most out of their low budget. Entertaining.