Tom Jolliffe looks forward to the return of Michael Biehn...
Growing up in the 80s with a love of cinema that would eventually flourish into full blown geekdom, I – like many film nerds of my generation – was weaned on the brilliance of 80s action cinema. For most film fanatics there’s a rite of passage they went through in their youth. We watched what we were not supposed to watch. As for myself I remember the awe I felt watching Die Hard, or the thrilling excitement and adrenaline-pulsing fear of watching Aliens. Most of us knew someone who had access to a cool - and adult - video collection. For me, it was a friend’s older brother’s video shelf that offered many cinematic delights, or the occasional night when pops was left alone to watch over me and my brother. I had my first tour of Nakatomi Plaza, and my first trip foray into the jungle (only to find my companions being killed and skinned one by one by a dreadlocked alien). One man who had a huge impact on my youth was Michael Biehn.
Biehn is one of the coolest, likeable, everyman heroes in cult cinema. We’re talking about the guy who played Kyle Reese in Terminator. We’re also talking the guy who played Hicks in Aliens. When I was younger I wanted to be those guys. It didn’t even matter to me that Reese died, or Hicks had to take a back seat while Sigourney Weaver took out the Alien trash. He was just cool.
When maturity finally introduced itself to me and I could watch The Terminator with more critical eyes and filmic appreciation, I realised that Biehn delivers a fantastic performance. Biehn won’t go down in the annuls of cinema alongside Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Marlon Brando et al, but what he did was act as the support beam for The Terminator… a support beam by which a franchise was built on (for better and worse). He gave his all. He brought Reese to life and filled him with conviction and believability. This is a character that’s travelled back in time knowing the odds are stacked against him. The future of humanity in his hands and the impossible task to convey a generation’s worth of destruction and civilisation crumbling that is, almost literally, etched on his face. He takes what could be seen as a suicide mission just to meet a woman he loves but has never met. The audience has to buy this - if it doesn’t the movie has no support beam, it collapses and The Terminator simply disappears into B-movie anonymity amongst a slew of video shlockers of the time. When he first tells Sarah Conner about his mission, the future and the unstoppable killing machine chasing them, Biehn is immense. It’s the key point of the movie and Biehn knocks it out of the park!
Aside from giving a committed and engrossing performance, he also had the long coat… that hid the sawn off shotgun. Let’s face it – Biehn unloading that bad boy on Ahnuld is badass. Despite his physical shortcomings in comparison to the cyborg foe – being smaller, weaker and just a bit more mushy and human – Biehn still comes across as undeniably badass. The coolness oozing from every pore was also evident in Aliens. As Hicks, Biehn again manages to inject likeability and believability into his character. Hicks is cool. He’s a figure of calm, intelligent self-assuredness amongst all the army grunts who make a lot of noise and fall back on machismo posturing.
Throughout his career, Biehn offers reliability. He’s stared in some truly woeful films (Timebomb with Patsy Kensit springs to mind). Still, no matter if he’s in uber-low budget or big budget spectacular, you can rely on Biehn to make his character memorable. Hell, Biehn dies with aplomb, and in his more memorable films, he tends to die a lot! Even in The Rock, we remember Biehn. Not only that, but he’s generally a character, be it written or purely through his portrayal, that you never want to die.
Furthermore it’s not just his forte to play the likeable hero. Biehn is always an excellent villain. He stole the film in The Abyss, yet another fruitful team up with James Cameron. So right now, myself and many other movie aficionados want to see the triumphant big screen return of Michael Biehn. As a hero, as a villain, we don’t mind!
Planet Terror teased us with a return. Biehn, once again managed to make his character one of the most memorable of the movie. Right now, as revealed earlier this week, Biehn wants to produce and star in three new Grindhouse flicks. That would indeed be enjoyable. We had rumours of a part in The Expendables 2, which sadly never came into fruition (though as of now, the movie is still lensing). There’s still enough directors around – like Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Christopher Nolan and more – who produce some old school, cool casting choices. There’s always hope that the likes of Biehn, Rutger Hauer, Gary Busey, etc. (I could go on for hours) will pop up here and there, and with more regularity. There has to be a big movie out there with a big role that could be filled by someone as gifted at what he does as Michael Biehn.
Just remember when Michael Biehn offers you his hand and says: “Come with me if you want to live!” - take it!