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Highlander
1986 - R - 111 Mins.
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Producer: William N. Panzer
Written By: Gregory Widen
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, Alan North
Review by: John Ulmer
   
I'm glad that the sword-and-sorcery flicks aren't made anymore. The craze died out before they got to be as miserable as some other genres. In case you need a reminder of just how bad most of them were, think back a few years. Films such as "Red Sonja" and "The Blade Master" are ill memories best left forgotten. Even "Conan the Barbarian" was not for my tastes -- even though I'm a big fan of Arnie Schwarzenegger.

And so I come to "Highlander," the 1986 film starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery as immortal warriors who inherit the earth and are always alive, left to battle each other to gain extra super-power (think Mario power-ups and you've got the idea).

Lambert's character has been around since the 1500s. Connery's since sometime around 300 A.D., give or take a few hundred/thousand years.

Although it's not a great film, "Highlander" certainly ranks as one of the better sword-and-sorcery flicks, solely because it has a few unique ideas (immortal man living throughout the ages), good battle scenes, and a fairly interesting -- or at least amusing -- story.

The story is that of a man who must cope with battling immortals and the emotional task of eternal life, and this entire idea sorta reminded me of the Tom Cruise/Brat Pitt flick "Interview with the Vampire"; at least as far as the central theme -- a guy who can't die whose story is not one filled with highlights, but rather bitter moments.

The film opens up in a car park outside of a wrestling tournament. Lambert battles a very flexible and energetic old fogie, slices his head off, and is arrested by cops and held suspect for murder. The thing is, the sword he sliced the guy's head off with dates back to a year when such swords weren't even made. How can this be? (Answer: Who cares?)

A nosy female reporter (Roxanne Hart) gets involved in this business, since she runs an on-the-side profession of being a professional sword historian (naturally) and is (naturally) interested by such strange occurences. As she investigates into the sword's background, she (naturally) unlocks Nash's (Lambert) past, realizing that he is one of a select few immortals who battle for complete domination by killing each other off and therefore gaining more power. Naturally.

The film's bad guy, Kruger (Clancy Brown, who now voices cartoon shows like "Spongebob Squarepants"), has been in a bitter feud with Nash for years, dating back to when Nash's name used to be MacLeod, and he was a Scottish war hero. (Think "Braveheart," minus the epic scale.) Anyway, they're still at it, and Nash/MacLeod is even angrier at Kruger since he killed his mentor, Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Connery) years ago. But his spirit lives on. I think, anyway.

Really corny, and really campy, the film rips off everything in sight -- particularly "The Terminator," released two years prior to the film, and "Conan the Barbarian," both films of course starring The Austrian Oak himself, who would have been more believable as a Scottish war hero than Lambert ever would be. The villain, Kruger, is set on Arnie Mode, particularly in scenes such as the one where he walks into a motel, with techno music pounding in the background like a heartbeat, his eyes scanning the room like a machine. (All the while being filmed in what I saw as a James Cameron Style.) Then he grabs the owner of the fine (and by that I mean absolutely horrid) establishment by the shirt and tells him, "Never speak to me." (And the obvious references to "Conan" are everywhere -- from the filming style of the flashbacks to the swordfight scenes.)

But I'm having what the Scots might call a "wee bit" of fun here. The movie isn't all that bad -- as long as you aren't expecting something more than passable popcorn entertainment. (In light of the sequels and rip-offs, however, this film indeed looks like a classic in comparison.)

"Highlander" inspired an uncountable number of sequels (Sean Connery returned for only one), a television show in 1992, and lots of really, really bad straight-to-video films starring Christopher Lambert.

All of this said, considering the sole source of the material, I don't see what all the extreme fuss is. But it is a lot better than "Police Academy"; I'll give it that much. And at least it didn't spawn six lousy sequels. Yet.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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