With his being snubbed of the nomination for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar he should have won for his performance in James Cameron’s criminally underrated masterwork The Abyss, I can’t call Michael Biehn an Oscar winner. Even though he has never gotten the recognition he has deserved for being the talented actor that he is, he will always be known to me as the actor responsible for one of the best performances in the history of film. Biehn has long been one of my favorite under-the-radar actors, and he’s unfortunately had one of those careers that just never really saw him get the roles he deserved or the recognition he deserved for the roles he did get. But that admirably hasn’t stopped him from ambitiously working both as an actor as well as, now with the release of The Victim, as a writer, producer, and director, as well.
Along with his wife, Jennifer Blanc, Biehn created a really exciting and intriguing thriller in the throwback, grindhouse tradition. The Victim follows a stripper named Annie (Blanc), who finds herself on the doorstep of a mysterious recluse named Kyle (Biehn, with a nod to Kyle Reese from The Terminator), hiding away from the world in a cabin in the woods and really not looking to get mixed up in whatever shenanigans this crazy woman is bringing into his life. Providing refuge for the clearly distressed Annie, Kyle learns about a police cover-up involving the murder of Annie’s best friend, Mary (Danielle Harris). Just as he is about to rush Annie out of his house and out of his life, the cops show up and start asking questions, plunging Kyle headfirst into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that escalates in tension and violence.
The Victim is a very small film. Small cast, small budget, short running time. And yet, there is so much going on between the lines, which speaks to a very shrewd and seasoned screenwriting hand and directorial eye, surprisingly and admirably possessed by first-time writer/director Biehn. In front of the camera, Biehn offers a layered performance, skillfully peeling back the layers of his enigmatic Samaritan, but it’s behind the camera that I found him most impressive. While mixing in flashbacks, throwing in little red herrings, and taking the story through treacherous twists-and-turns and ending on a wonderfully twisted note, Biehn never loses the thread, he never runs off course.
Blanc does well as the heroine with the checkered past and Ryan Honey hits all the right notes as the villainous cop looking to save his career even if it means resorting to murder, but make no mistake about it, this is the Michael Biehn show. As actor, writer, and director, Biehn is center stage and he deserves all of the praise in the world on all fronts. And to make it even easier to respect him and his efforts, the Anchor Bay release of the film features a behind-the-scenes featurette that includes on-set footage and interviews with the cast and the crew.
Part grindhouse exploitation thriller and part psychological suspense film, The Victim is an intelligently conceived and discriminatingly executed thrill-ride that offers an exciting excursion into the simultaneity of good and evil in us all.