Michael Biehn (pronounced Bean) should have had the world at his feet in the mid eighties. Playing Kyle Reese in the 1984 cult hit Terminator had been a massive boost to his early career and by the time Aliens hit cinemas a few short years later fans had opened their hearts to him and cemented his position as a sci-fi cult favourite. Oddly, main stream Hollywood seemed oblivious to his early success and prolific roles outside of James Cameron productions were few and far between. Mr Biehn (geddit?!) instead focused his talent on lower budget B-movie productions which have been his source of bread and butter ever since. However, Michael’s latest film, The Victim sees him take a different approach to cinema and he is now appearing behind the camera as debut director as well as screen writer, leading man and co-producer with new wife Jennifer Blanc. It’s always a risk when an actor makes the leap to film maker but his years working along side James Cameron should put him in good stead. Will this Grind house influenced thriller finally make Hollywood pay attention or has he spread himself too thinly?
The Victim is all about a woman who is on the run after witnessing the death of her best friend at the hands of the local sheriff and his deputy. Escaping into the forest she finds hermit Kyle who takes her in and together they take on the dastardly duo. It’s a simple premise but in the right hands could still be an impressive debut. Sadly, it’s pretty clear from early on that The Victim is a bit of a disappointment. For a start the opening credits are awful. I know the film is supposed to look grimy and cheap but I have seen youtube clips look more professional. I know the font should in no way determine the quality of a film but a few more quid spent on a better art package for the PC wouldn’t have gone amiss! It’s also very apparent that something isn’t quite right with the acting. It’s pretty bad and at times it’s uncomfortable to watch. Dialogue flows unnaturally and feels amateurish as if everything that’s being said isn’t as important as what’s being seen. It’s probably a little unfair to blame individuals as even Biehn and veteran horror actress Danielle Harris struggle suggesting that the script is the main issue. I said before that the story was a simple affair; sometimes this is okay if it is backed up by clever twists or punchy pacing but The Victim has neither of these. It has a fair amount of unnecessary sex scenes which play out like porn movies. In one scene which springs to mind Annie the heroine is taken in by Kyle. He lies about her whereabouts to her pursuers (who only needed to look through the window to see her!) and shortly after ward they are at it like frickin’ rabbits. Later in the plot she performs oral sex on her captor long enough to distract him and steal his gun! Things feel unrealistic and stupid which makes the film a farce more than an edgy thriller. I get the Grindhouse feel that they were going for but for me Blanc/Biehn productions failed to make an enjoyable film. Michael Biehn was apparently inspired to make The Victim by Robert Rodriguez while filming ‘Planet Terror’. By contrast that film didn’t take anything seriously. It was waaaay over the top, and the acting was crap but it was intentional. Most importantly it made the film fun to watch which is one of The Victims main flaws. This is a country mile away from the similar themed Tucker & Dale vs. evil.
I really wanted to like The Victim. I was genuinely excited to find out that Michael Biehn was directing his debut feature. I really hoped it would finally give him the credit that he had been denied for so long. It would have been ace if he had re-invented the genre in the same way that Edgar Wright did with Shaun of the dead or Peter Jackson with Bad Taste and even Robert Rodriguez with El Mariachi had done with their first films. Unfortunately by making a serious gritty thriller in the Grindhouse mould the end result is boring. Whilst I applaud Michael Biehn for ignoring mainstream Hollywood and concentrating on projects that interest him I do hope that he tries harder to make films that interest his audience.