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Review: The Victim, written, directed and starring Michael Biehn

The Victim, written, directed and starring Michael Biehn
05.09.2011by: Jake Dee
7 10

PLOT: When a stripper's (Jennifer Blanc) best friend is raped and killed in the woods by a high-ranking crooked cop (Ryan Honey), she seeks refuge from a lonesome ex-con (Michael Biehn) living in a secluded cabin. As her attackers encroach, a battle of wits ensues, blood is shed, and an irreparable truth is exposed.

REVIEW: Written and directed by the great Michael Biehn, his ultra low-budget ode to B-movie sleaze is a lot of fun to behold. Shot in 12 days from a script he wrote in three weeks, THE VICTIM is a small, sordid, character driven piece of pulp that knows exactly what it is, and reinforces that assertion through its sick sense of humor. This isn't a film looking to reinvent the wheel and it doesn't pretend to be something it's not...instead it's a lean, brusque, focused thriller with good performances by all involved. And actually, the film is a bit deceptive, but I say that with a complimentary intent. As straight-forward and palatable the film is to watch, a completely unexpected snap-twist concludes the film in a way that makes you reassess everything you saw up to that point. At the same time, the final reveal doesn't feel unfounded or cheaply unwarranted, it actually computes in a feasible, organic way to the story.

The film opens with a stripper named Mary (the lovely Danielle Harris) getting slammed doggy-style up against a rock in the woods. Her suitor, Harrison (Honey), gets a little too passionate and accidentally kills the poor girl. When Harrison calls his buddy Cooger (Denny Kirkwood) over to help the situation, Mary's friend Annie (Blanc) sees what happened and dashes through the woods in an attempt to escape. The two dudes chase her with every intent on keeping her quiet, even if it means death, but it isn't until they eventually roll up on Kyle (Biehn) at his remote cabin that the action is put in motion. Kyle and Annie hit it off almost immediately, despite the former's desire to be left alone...away from the world. He helps the damsel in distress hide from the baddies, but when that doesn't hold, he bonds with the girl and does whatever he can to protect her. Sex, violence, torture and hand-to-hand tussling follow suit...

Now it should be noted, THE VICTIM is not an A-list caliber picture. Far from it. You won't find this in multiplexes anytime soon, for good reason, but it's certain to find its audience on DVD. Why? Because it's fun and never takes itself too seriously. Michael Biehn gives a solid turn as a loner thrust into an untenable situation, his craggy mood and air of perturbed inconvenience makes for a hilarious watch. The banter he trades with Annie (Blanc, his real life wife, who also gives a decent performance) is engaging, and when the stints of violence break out, a certain amount of veracity allows you to believe it's actually happening. No lame CG gimmicks or stunt-double reliance, it's Biehn, Blanc, Honey and Kirkwood getting their hands dirty themselves...and that I quite admired.

The major problems with THE VICTIM come by way of budgetary and resourceful restrictions. Largely set in one or two locations, the film has a limited scope that may have hampered Biehn, at the writing stage, to achieve a complex narrative. He has to, by virtue of his creative ingredients, keep the film monastically simple...and while it's no doubt fun to watch, it hardly challenges you as a viewer or offers something you haven't seen before in some form or fashion. Unoriginal is too strong a charge, but the film is certainly inert at times. Visually, outside of the sexy female leads, the film sorely lacks panache. A lot of day-for-night scenes in a car, under the moonlight, or in Kyle's shabby cabin hardly evoke a Kubrickian impression. Again, this is surely due to technological limitations, even if the film was shot with the Red Camera.

All in all, I dug THE VICTIM quite a bit. I'm not sure if it was due to watching it along with a sophisticated crowd, one that congealed in an infectious fit of laughter, but I was thoroughly entertained. I loved seeing Biehn rock a terse, take-no-shite role that, as he admitted to at the screening, more reflected his own personality than the lot of characters he's played in the past. Instead of an action hero or villain, he plays an everyman forced to confront a violent situation that literally comes knocking on his door. Sure it's an unabashed B-movie, with sparse actors and locations, but Biehn made due with the raw material he was given at the outset and delivered a solid little exploitation yarn. Although far from a masterwork of art, I definitely didn't feel like THE VICTIM while watching.

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