HIGHLANDER is not a Scot’s way of saying “catastrophically dumb”. Theirs would no doubt be more colorful. This flashy, brain-reducing fantasy-actioner didn’t fare well when it slashed and bellowed its way into pop culture back in 1986: the $19,000,000 production only stabbed $5,900,000 in the States (94th place), with another $7,000,000 skewered elsewhere. But fever-dream cult-followings being what they are, it grew (like a mold), yeasting yet another sprawling ‘franchise’ of the sort that can make you nostalgic for the relative sanity of the Dark Ages.*
1985, New York City. Antique dealer ‘Russell Nash’ (Christopher Lambert) is actually an ‘Immortal‘. He’s battled his way through many incarnations since his initiation into the select sword-fighting society back in 1456 Scotland, when he was just an amiable country combat amateur named ‘Connor MacLeod’. Present day pursuit by puzzled cops,(including ‘Brenda’ (Roxanne Hart) a forensic pathologist who just happens to love swords, alternates with flashbacks to loch & heather of yore and Connor’s Rockyesque training by flamboyant mentor immortal ‘Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez’ (Sean Connery). Connor’s immortal enemy throughout the centuries is brutish ‘The Kurgan’ (Clancy Brown). Heads roll, growls are emitted, sparks fly, glass shatters, your own life loses two hours you might want later.
Noisy and nasty nonsense has two redeeming elements. Okay, two and a half. First is Sean Connery, who—God Bless him—carries off his
paycheck assignment with elan, complete with rolling cadence, winning smile, sparkle in his eyes and a terrific costume. Second is some lovely scenic shooting in ruggedly beautiful Scottish locales: credit cameraman Gerry Fisher. Finally, as ever, Clancy Brown makes an intense and formidable villain.
Otherwise, it couldn’t be more utterly ridiculous. As if the premise wasn’t daft enough, the dialogue is terrible, the action scenes interminable, their choreography laughable. Lambert has exactly two expressions. It’s almost bad enough to be fun, IF watched with forgiving friends and realm-enhancing refreshments. Preferably after several rounds or bowls of said refreshments. Would you believe that if there was a forensic pathologist/metallurgy author named Brenda that she would look like Roxanne Hart? Is the air on your planet breathable for visitors from Earth?
Directed by Russell Mulcahy (Razorback), written by Gregory Widen (Backdraft) and Peter Bellwood. Soundtrack by Michael Kamen is buttressed by several songs done by Queen, finest hour not. 116 minutes (about 10 worthwhile, involving Connery or scenery), with Beatie Edney, Alan North, Jon Polito, Sheila Gish, Celia Imrie, James Cosmo.
* Remarkable, really, how many rotten bananas that fellow simians can ingest without projectile-ralphing onto whomever is relaxing beneath the tree. Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)—cost of $34,000,000, gross of $15,600,000, was also a critical disaster of legendary proportions. Highlander III: The Sorcerer (1994), another H-bomb, tabbing $34,000,000, begging $13,000,000. Highlander: Endgame (2000), needed $25,000,000, got $15,000,000. Highlander: The Source (2007), gobbled $13,000,000, then was regurgitated onto TV. THEN!—an anime feature, three TV series, ten novels, comics, games…….William Wallace spins in his grave. “Wull, we didna get drress’t up fer nuthin...”