Victim (2011)
Well Go USA // Unrated // $29.98 // September 9, 2014
Review by Tyler Foster | posted September 19, 2014
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Graphical Version
20-year-old Tyson (Ashley Chin) arrives home at 7:30am to roust his sister Nyla (Letitia Wright) from bed so he can drive her to school. He is her only guardian, so he puts pressure on her to do well in her classes. He then goes to the bank, where he is working on paying off a sizable debt, and continually frustrated by the additional fees and charges that keep racking up on top of his existing balance. Shortly thereafter, he runs into Tia (Ashley Madekwe), the cousin of his friend Davina (Anna Nightingale), and gives her a ride to a testing center, where she hopes begin the long journey toward a degree. Tia encourages Tyson to do the same, especially after she gets a glimpse at his artwork, but Tyson resists. He's got his own responsibilities. Along with his two friends, Mannie (Jason Maza) and Jason (Michael Maris), and the occasional assist from Davina and one of her friends, Tyson dresses up in a jumpsuit and ski mask and robs the apartments of rich people.

Victim is a social commentary drama that executes some of its ideas effectively but generally fails to add anything new to the genre. Co-written by Chin, Maza, Maris, and Adrian Scott, the movie has seems like a nice ear for the mannerisms and attitudes of teenagers and early 20-somethings who get sucked into a life of crime, but the film fails to provide much fresh insight with regard to why, or the mindset of people like Tyson. Even within the film's story, Tyson is an outsider, hoping to clear his debt and go straight, but in doing so, the film feels like one of a million "last-job-and-I'm-out" life of crime stories, and follows the same basic pattern. Status quo, things look better, things get worse, and it all comes down to a last job that the viewer can see is not going to turn out well for anyone involved.

The film opens with the trio performing and then celebrating their latest score before pulling back to show a bit more of their individual lifestyles. This is meant to be sort of a rug pull for the audience, but it almost backfires, because there's not enough sense throughout the movie of how these guys were out of other options. Society often drives the poor to commit crimes, which is of course a systemic issue and not down to each individual person, but for too much of the film, their motives seem shallow. Jason's situation is never referenced, and Mannie's seems like a bit of weak armchair psychology. Tyson's makes the most sense, but there's not enough specificity to his story for the audience to be compelled by it. It ends up playing too familiar, which hurts Tyson's character arc a little.

Good thing Chin is a stronger performer than he is a writer, able to win the audience's sympathies back after nearly a half an hour where he does nothing but sulk, reject Davina, and yell at his sister. When Chin is with Madekwe or Wright, he frequently lights up, boyish charm shining through. When he talks about turning over a new leaf, it doesn't sound like he's just tired of the life; his hope that he can change things for him and his sister rings with genuine hope. Chin also has a great scene with a young boy that Jason beats up (Jordy Meya), another that overcomes the predictability of what occurs through the conviction in Chin's delivery. In these moments, Chin comes off the most passionate, and the movie is at its most effective.

Sadly, too much of Victim's plot momentum is motivated by characters simply doing things that force everyone's hand. Where Tyson's actions should cause unexpected outcomes, like a domino effect, characters (such as Tyson's mother, or Tia's angry ex-boyfriend) simply show up out of the blue and do things that cause chaos. The entire third act is predicated on a single character's actions, but the motivation behind those actions is never set up with enough dramatic weight for the entire thread to be compelling, not to mention the script ends up trumping the thread's logical conclusion with another out-of-the-blue moment instead. During this home stretch, Tyson's actions also become frustrating, with the character refusing to say or do the obvious thing in a way that makes him seem spineless. In a better written film, his hesitation could come off more like a character flaw, but these beats just feel like another one of Victim's many rough patches.

The Blu-ray
The face of a young man, probably Tyson, underneath a ski mask, with the UK flag behind him, serves as the cover for Victim, which basically gets across the basic idea of the film and the kind of information marketers think are crucial (the fact that the film is British). The single-disc release comes in a standard eco-friendly Vortex case, and there is an insert advertising some of Well Go USA's other releases.

The Video and Audio
Victim looks fairly average on Well Go's 1.78:1 1080p AVC Blu-ray, with serious banding and artifacting issues lurking in the image's shallow black levels. Any time a character walks into the shade, it's possible to spot globs of blocks and color, some more apparent than others. The slightly desaturated color appears intentional and in well-lit sequences, detail is excellent, but the blocking and banding is really distracting. Sound is a pretty unremarkable DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which is mostly just noisy even when the boys are robbing houses, picking up all the natural echo and reverb of the film's locations. Dialogue and music sound fine, it's just that the track is not very immersive and almost too "natural." English subtitles (not captions) are also provided. These subtitles are unusually awful, including the wrong form of "your", a constant lack of commas, mixed up homonyms ("collage" instead of "college", for instance), and a number of poorly translated British colloquialisms (like "innit", which the subtitles change to "in it").

The Extras
A single, lengthy selection of languid cast interviews (55:08, HD) is the only extra. Whenever this amount of interview footage appears on a disc, I know it's the kind of material that was recorded with the intent of being edited down for an EPK -- it's shot basically with the awareness that much of it is meant to be trimmed away. Still, there are some interesting thoughts from Chin on what he wanted to convey with the character and story, even if a bunch of his ideas don't quite come through in the picture. Note: although the menu shows a number of individual interview selections with no "Play All" option, clicking on Chin's interview will allow the viewer to skip through the entire selection of interviews.

Trailers for Very Good Girls, Kid Cannabis, and McCanick play before the main menu, and can be selected again from the main menu under "Previews". An original theatrical trailer for Victim is also included.

Victim struggles with what it's trying to say, which is unfortunate because what it's trying to say has also been expressed with a bit more finesse and effectiveness in other movies. Chin is clearly a person to watch; he's a talented and charismatic performer and his ambition to write as well is exciting. It's just a shame that Victim feels so familiar, and flawed. Rent it.

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