Rated R for "Ridiculous in Every Way". Well-deserved R.
DIRECTOR: Russell Mulcahy
I had a conversation with some of the other Villa teachers about which movies for our youths we didn't think would hold up. I had a weird youth, guys. The Highlander film franchise was a weird obsession for me in high school. I can't stress how much I liked these movies. The best I can do is say that I had a quote from Highlander 2 for my senior yearbook quote and Highlander 2 is considered one of the worst movies ever made. Yeah, I was right about this movie not holding up. But I also don't want to dismiss the movie altogether.
The real first review on this website was for a documentary named Electric Boogaloo: The Untold Story of Cannon Films. My wife made me take it down because she was justifiably concerned that students would want to watch the documentary. The long and short of the documentary is that Cannon Films made some of the schlockiest films of the '80s by just filming a ton of sex and violence. Now one thing I didn't realize is that Highlander was a Cannon Film. When that production company logo popped on screen, everything about this movie made a lot more sense. Probably the nicest thing someone can say about the original movie is that it is extremely disjointed. It's framework is something brilliant, but many scenes in this movie don't make a lick of sense.
The story surrounds Connor MacLeod (of the Clan MacLeod, born in Glenfinnin...you know what? I've established that I know this movie. I don't need to prove anything else), a clansman exiled from the MacLeods for being in league with the devil after surviving a fatal wound. MacLeod, played by Christopher Lambert, meets Juan Sanchez Villa Lobos Ramirez, portrayed by Sean Connery. MacLeod discovers that he was born Immortal, unable to be killed shy of having his head severed from his body. When there are few Immortals left, he will be called to a gathering and be driven to kill the other Immortals. (I now sound really silly typing this out.) MacLeod must fight and kill the Kurgan, a Russian psychopath who killed Ramirez, to become the last Immortal.
The movie fundamentally works with its tale of a man experiencing history without fear of death. There's something touching and fun about seeing a 1700s Connor MacLeod travel the Scottish Highlands. He interacts with history, dealing with the French Revolution and World War II. His friendships are interesting and Cannon spent some money to film on location. Add to that an amazing soundtrack mostly provided by Queen and the movie is pretty darned cool. It's actually in its A story that the story is just a mess. The fighting in New York is weirdly aimless and so over-the-top that it comes across like the wrestling in the opening sequences. And that's the tonal choice that makes this movie a Cannon film. Walls explode just from light touches. Every sword clash creates sparks because the actors were hooked up to car batteries. The city is every dark city ever, without a real personality. Really, the movie just overloaded every moment it could with cliches. So on one half, we have a really cool look at one man's first hand experience with history. On the other, we have a violent, sex-filled slaughterfest with jokes that don't really land.
The casting is also absolutely bizarre, but I secretly celebrate this choice. Christopher Lambert plays a Scotsman who almost isn't trying to do a Scottish accent across from a Scotsman playing a Spaniard who isn't trying to do a Spanish accent. For the first time ever, I noticed that Connery even tries to swear in Spanish and it is just adorable.
I'm not saying don't watch this. But this movie is a time capsule. These are the movies that devolved into Sharknado. These movies are unabashedly kitsch, but they need to exist. This movie shot for greatness out of the dreams of a film student who received affirmation and it is super fun for what it is. For a guy who hates reboots, I wouldn't mind a classy, big budget reboot of Highlander. There is something there, but it has a lot of garbage covering it up.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.