The Victim is the kind of movie that would be easy to dismiss. Clearly low-budget with little to no star power, it doesn’t exactly scream “must-see” from the looks of it. But much like the movie itself tells you, looks can be deceiving. What lies beneath the largely forgettable surface of The Victim’s press is a surprisingly intelligent, well thought out and methodical blend of noir and grindhouse that is as unassumingly charming as its two leads.
Production was admittedly not on The Victim’s side. Shot in less than two weeks on a shoe-string budget, some of the technical cracks of the film show, but what The Victim lacks in finesse, it more than makes up for in story. The story behind the victim is that Biehn was inspired to make a grindhouse movie after his own work on Grindhouse with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. As far as those two directors go, you could not ask for better teachers. Biehn brings their unparalleled passion to his directorial debut, but also breathes a little bit of new life into his story. What is perhaps most beguiling about the film is that it knows what it is. While this may sound like an unremarkable compliment, The Victim is at its best when it doesn’t overextend itself by trying to shoot elaborate car chases or massive explosions. Considering, at its core, The Victim is a grindhouse movie, it is actually very subtle for the sub-genre. Instead, The Victim is stripped of all its fancy visual tricks and distractions, but what remains is an homage to the conventions and traditions of a criminally neglected staple of American cinema.
The Victim shows it concentrated efforts on story in its dialogue-driven pacing. While some may find the incessant chatter of its leads to be obnoxious, Biehn brings a quiet charisma to his gruff, loner character. Ms. Blanc-Biehn exudes a much more personable charm that lends itself to Biehn’s uncertainty and ambiguity about Annie. The two play off one another with such fantastic chemistry, which seems to be indicative of their real-life romantic relationship. Still, The Victim isn’t at its best when it pairs the two together, but in the early moments of the movie when the two are trying to figure each other out. While their romantic spark is palpable, the uneasy dance the two do around each other when they first met is both suspenseful and tension-filled. Honestly, it is a joy that The Victim spends so much time with its two leads. Biehn is in fine form as the ruggedly, virile, hyper-masculine male lead, truly a feat when considering his role as director as well. He is able to deliver a strong performance while also drawing them out of his co-stars. The movie teeters towards the hokey at times, but it is with a self-awareness that could only exist in a 21st century grindhouse movie.
While The Victim is not a perfect film, it is an impressive effort from first-time director Michael Biehn. It shows not only his familiarity with the conventions of film, but with the art of crafting a character-driven story. The Victim falters in its technical efforts, with some scenes running a little too long and other scenes that could use a little extra lighting, but none of it detracts from the fun that this film has to offer. Currently playing at the New Beverly for one week only, The Victim is a good time at the movies and well worth the price of admission.