Saturday, July 3, 2010

Highlander (1986)

Starring Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown
Directed by Russell Mulcahy
Action / Fantasy
Rated R: Violence

*Spoiler Alert*

The film opens with a block of red text, but by the time I get to the fourth word, Sean Connery's voice comes in and starts reading for us. Thats something I've never understood about opening movie monologues. Why show the text that is being read to us? Do they expect us to read it while someone else is doing so out loud? After thats done we cut to the opening credits with music by Queen in the background. I hope you like Queen, because they're all throughout this movie.

The actual story begins at a wrestling match in Madison Square Gardens, were we see a guy dressed like John Constantine sitting in his seat stoically, contrary to the other excited fans. Our Hellblazer look-alike, Connor MacLeod, played by the beetle browed Christopher Lambert leaves the arena to wander around the parking garage until he is attacked by a man in a three piece suit and sunglasses wielding a sword. MacLeod pulls a katanna out from under his coat and the two have a rather clumsily filmed duel, until MacLeod cuts off his opponents head, which causes a massive explosion. Connor tries to flee the scene, but is captured by the police.

From there Connor has a flashback to his life in Scotland in 1586. The historic Scotland scenes are easily the best part of the movie. I expected something like a Ren Fair, but everything about these people felt authentic. These people were dirty, even our main characters, who are often spared that fate in most movies. The thing that was so great about them was despite their distant setting was their vibrant attitudes and merry hearts which made them seem as alive as you or me. The way Connor joked with his clansman and spoke lovingly with his wife. The camera was always at eye level during the establishing shots of the historic scenes. We weren’t above or beneath them, but equals. Also, I thought it was kind of funny how the cuts between Scotland and New York showed both historic people as well as modern people covered in dirt. Ah New York, New York its a wonderful town...

During one of these flashbacks Connor meets Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez (Sean Connery), a Spanish nobleman who tells McLeod that the two of them are immortals, destined to do battle with other immortals until only one remains to claim "The Prize." Okay, Immortality I can follow, what I don't get is why, in a movie taking place in the highlands of Scotland, with a Scottish protaganist, why would you get the world's most famous Scottish actor to play a Spaniard? Regardless, Connery is quite charming, a serves the mentor role quite well, teaching MacLeod the rules of immortality and having him run and swordfight on the beautiful beaches and mountaintops. The only thing missing here is Queen doing their own "Got to Fly Now" song. Connery is easily the most likable character and it is unfortunate that his time is so brief, as he is decapitated by another immortal, The Kurgan (Clancy Brown) after a battle inside of a foam rubber castle.

Once we establish the immortality and stop having flashbacks, the urgency seems to drop and the third act feels very long and drawn out. We establish that a police scientist Brenda Wyatt (Roxanne Hart) is onto MacLeod's secret, which leads to a love scene between the two that I honestly think is there just so that we can establish that these two are "in a relationship", since they really don't share much screen time or chemistry together. The Kurgan reappears to terrorize Brenda, revealing that he and McLeod are the only two immortals left and must duel one another to claim "The Prize". The Kurgan acts more they a big bully then an actual threat, we see him do little more than just shove people around. But eventually he and Connor fight, and Connor wins "The Prize", which is the ability to read minds in exchange for now being mortal and being straddled with Ramirez's "Obi-Wan Kenobi" voice in his head.

Highlander has many interesting elements. The story is original, the Scotland setting is beautiful, Sean Connery steals the show with his acting, and the soundtrack is done by Queen. But some elements feel like they could have been tightened up especially the action scenes, and pretty much anything that happens in the third act.

Final Score:
Three out of Five. Okay.

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