HIGHLANDER - Golden Oldies Finally On DVD
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 30 2016
EDITOR’S NOTE: Once again, a movie with a following, but whose praiseworthy qualities elude me, gets a Blu-ray upgrade, this one for ‘Highlander’s’ 30th anniversary. In the movie’s defense, however, it should be noted that four sequels followed, along with two TV series and an animated series. Here’s my review, published in the March 13, 1986, Deseret News. (The film is rated R for violence, sex, nudity and profanity.)
“Highlander” is a movie that wants desperately to be all things to all audiences, an impossible goal, of course. But in the end it is the film’s desperation as much as anything that causes it to become a resounding failure.
The premise is rather intriguing, though it is really little more than “The Terminator” in reverse – a man from the past faces a showdown in modern-day New York with a villain from his own time.
Chirstopher Lambert, he of the high forehead and droopy eyelids (last seen in “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes”), stars here as the title character, a Scottish warrior who somehow receives the gift of immortality and receives battle instruction from Sean Connery in 16th century Scotland.
Sean Connery, Christopher Lambert, 'Highlander'
There is an incredibly evil villain (Clancy Brown, the Frankenstein monster in “The Bride”) who is also immortal, and stalks Lambert throughout the film.
There are doomed romances as the script superficially attempts to explore the implication of immortality – wives grow old and die, leaving Lambert a perpetual widower.
And there are battles galore, along with plenty of gore, especially since the only way the immortals can be killed is to have their heads removed by swift sword.
As the story progresses it is revealed that the great final battle of the immortals is to take place in 1986 Manhattan, and magical sword fights between these warriors – there seem to be only four left as the film begins – leave body parts all over the city.
And just for good measure, Lambert meets up with a police department beauty (Roxanne Hart) who just happens to be an expert on antique metals. She discovers Lambert’s secret after an ancient sword is found at the scene.
“Highlander” is a ridiculous blend of lush photography that goes back and forth between 16th century Scotland and modern-day New York, violent suspense that seems – right down to camera angles – to be ripped off of “The Terminator,” and a goofball sense of humor that surfaces about halfway through the movie and becomes so broad you may wonder if the Monty Pythons had anything to do with all this.
Unfortunately they did not, but there are enough unintentional laughs to make up for the intended ones that bomb.
Probably the oddest sequence, however, has Lambert, who is a Frenchman playing a Scotsman, explaining to Connery, who is a Scotsman playing a Spaniard . . . or maybe an Egyptian . . . what a haggis is.
The film’s structure wildly attempts to be stylish, with stark jumps and artsy segues between past and present, but is far too pretentious and self-conscious. Before reading the pressbook I guessed that director Russell Mulcahy came from the world of music videos. I was right.
Some of the ideas here are interesting enough, if not particularly original, but the execution of this concept is incredibly clumsy, with plot holes galore, unexplained characters and incidents, and a zany sense of humor that comes in too late and seems awfully strained.
Lambert is a palatable hero, Hart is an interesting heroine, and Brown is a wild-eyed villain, but Connery makes everyone else in this film look like an amateur. Perhaps that’s why he was given so little screen time. But none of them overcome the ridiculous script, and Mulcahy’s heavy-handed direction only makes matters worse.