After watching Robert Rodriguez at work during the filming of “Grindhouse” (2007) actor Michael Biehn was inspired to become director Michael Biehn by writing and directing “The Victim.” Given that Biehn is also playing the main role and that his spouse Jennifer Blanc is co-starring and also producing, this may sound like a vanity project, but it is actually quite successful at what it is trying to be. If Biehn’s goal was to make a low-budget thriller in the spirit of Grindhouse movies filled with violence, blood, and gratuitous nudity, then mission accomplished.
Biehn is Kyle Limato, a seemingly harmless loner living in a cabin in the woods away from civilization and trouble. That is until trouble comes knocking at his door in the form of Annie (Jennifer Blanc), a frantic exotic dancer who says people are trying to kill her. Kyle is very reluctant to let her in and is even more reluctant to help her once he hears her story.
Annie and her friend Mary (Danielle Harris) were out partying with their boyfriends James (Ryan Honey) and Jonathan (Denny Kirkwood) out in the woods. James and Mary stepped out and during some very uncomfortable rough sex James snapped Mary’s neck. Instead of calling for help and saying it was an accident James and Jonathan decide to bury the body and kill Annie, who overhears their plan. An even bigger problem: they’re both very successful cops.
Kyle wants no part of this and offers to drive Annie to town so she can tell the police, but as she points out no one will believe a stripper as opposed to two rising stars on the force. Sure enough James and Jonathan come knocking at Kyle’s door and say Annie is a murder suspect, but Kyle chooses to lie and turn them away. As the night progresses, Kyle and Annie go on a frantic search for Mary’s body, fights break out, and a burning hot crowbar is used as a torture instrument.
Biehn gave himself the meatiest role in this small cast. At first glance Kyle looks like a nobody, but he has layers and dark reasons for wanting to be alone in the woods. He is also very good at interrogating the cops and catching them in a lie. When he is 100 per cent sure Annie is telling the truth and the police are the guilty ones, he is morally outraged and questions how they can act they way they do. How can they be so successful at their jobs and throw it all away by partying with strippers and doing drugs in the woods? James’ answer: you can either grab life by the balls or be the victim.
There are actually a lot of conversations like that throughout the movie when the characters are not fighting each other. Kyle wonders why fate has made him live all by himself in the woods, while Annie wonders who deserves to die a horrible death. To answer her question, Kyle quotes Clint Eastwood in “Unforgiven” saying “deserves has got nothing to do with it.”
It’s probably not a good idea to quote a classic when a making a movie that is miles away in terms of story and quality. Despite running a brisk 83 minutes “The Victim” could use some trimming, especially in an early montage that introduces Kyle. Flashback scenes of Annie and Mary are also not subtle as a white light actually flashes on screen to tell the audience that this is flashback.
Still, if this is to be Michael Biehn’s “El Mariachi” it shows promise. He nails the genre he is aiming for and manages to get effective performances out of his actors, even while being in front and behind the camera. Hopefully with more practice he might arrive at his “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.”