There comes a time in every actor’s life when they have to make that choice, which is, to direct or not to direct. I’m sure that it’s not easy decision to make, but I would imagine that it’s the kind of decision that is well thought out and comes from a very creative place in the actor’s heart. The chance to tell one’s own story especially when the film in question is also written by said actor turned director. This is where we find Michael Biehn and his newest feature, The Victim.
Synopsis from Crimson Films:
Good time girls Anne (Jennifer Blanc) and mary (Danielle Harris) find themselves in a life and death situation. Annie’s life is put in jeopardy when she is witness to a violent act at the hands of two Sheriff’s Deputies. Fleeing from attackers (Ryan Honey, Denny Kirkwood) she stumbles across Kyle (Michael Biehn), a recluse living in the middle of the woods. The ruggedly handsome loner stays far from civilization – that is- until a single knock on his door throws his solitary life into chaos. Two worlds collide in this psychological thriller that will make you question your trust in mankind. WHO IS THE VICTIM?
Biehn wrote, directed and starred in the feature The Blood Bond in 2010. A year later he put together The Victim along side wife Jennifer Blanc. While I haven’t caught The Blood Bone I’ll say that his efforts in The Victim are above average. Biehn has put together a cohesive story with characters that will endear the audience to them when appropriate and shock them when they least expect it. Putting himself in the lead role of these films was also a wise choice. He knows what he needs best and delivers a nice twist on some characters that you may feel you’ve seen Biehn play in previous outings. My personal favorite Michael Biehn role was his brief stint in Grindhouse, but I’m known to be partial to that film especially the Thanksgiving faux trailer.
Now if you read any of my reviews, you know that I’m a horror fan first and a movie fan second. That pretty much means I love to watch the creepy and the eerie. The Victim isn’t really a horror flick, but it’s a thriller that will leave you feeling slight shaken and moderately stirred mostly due to the performances the Biehn gets from the cast. This isn’t a gore fest. There are no gremlins or ghosties hiding in the closet. Make no mistake this is an examination of the nature of human beings and how they deal with extraordinary circumstances. The whole premise is based around questions of personal identity and the ability of others to understand the complexity of the human psyche. You’re in for a bit of a head trip with a nice twist that you may pick up on if you’re paying attention and not staring at Danielle Harris or the lovely Jessica Blanc-Biehn.
All kidding aside, the performances make the movie. The development of characters transforms ordinary stereotypes into more complex, individuals in need of deciphering especially under the high stress situations involving murder.
Ryan Honey and Denny Kirkwood play the Sheriff’s Deputies with two faces put perfectly in place. One minute you’ll trust them with their life and the next they’ll be taking your life with their hands most likely while wearing a badge. They portray characters that mimic the folks you might see every day guarding your home or responding to a traffic call, but ultimately pull of their metaphorical, good guy masks when the going gets tough.
I’ll admit that while quite a bit works for The Victim it does have a strike or two against it. The pacing is somewhat slow in the beginning which suggests a nice build into madness, but once the movie winds up it fails to keep the tension that the first thirty minutes tried to establish and turns into a brutal, Last House on the Left mock up or at least a few scenes had me thinking about the Craven/Cunningham classic. With all the time spent developing ladies in the movie, it would be nice to get to know Kyle a bit more. Not that you need to know him up front and personal while he’s attempting to decipher what is real and what is fiction, but toward the end we should at least have a clear idea of who he is. While not spoiling the film, you’ll want to know more about Biehn’s character by the time the credits roll and feel slightly cheated out of his story. And that’s another thing… the music and credit sequence while often doesn’t even come up in my reviews is so out of style of the rest of the picture that they actually bare mentioning here. The music is hokey and doesn’t fit. It doesn’t wind the audience out after the film’s culmination. It has that Predator-esque reel of faces displaying each persons credit. It doesn’t work. It pulls the audience right out of that place of mystery and intrigue that the last five minutes tries to ensnare them in.
One last thing of note before I give you my final thoughts… The cover art can be slightly misleading. I expected to see Biehn running around with an axe defending the honor of two women who’s honor might be in question. This is not the case. This beautiful axe that is used in the poster/cover art really is an afterthought at best in the movie. It’s not a hack ‘em up kinda movie. Lovely poster though. The “V” for victim had me thinking V the miniseries from the 80’s and V for Vendetta and yes, even bad girls do need protection.
It’s a good effort. Does it compare to Biehn’s previous acting work? No. It’s not his finest hour, but it is a strong performance. I don’t think it’s fair to put this up against his previous roles as super G.I. Joe action man with charisma and brilliant one liners. It’s a unique moment for Biehn and a time to change up. While it has some minor flaws the picture is entertaining, will keep your interest and might have you biting a finger nail or two. This isn’t Michael Biehn doing Michael Biehn. This appears to be a successful attempt at reinvention no matter how slight, and fans of his should find it much to their liking.
The Victim makes its NYC debut on August 24th and then on to Los Angeles September 7th.