Almost nothing in Highlander works. There’s the maniac driving scene at the end, that one works pretty well–with the exception of the unrelated car crashes cut in. In that scene, Clancy Brown really embraces the absurdity of his role and Russell Mulcahy shoots Roxanne Hart so well, she can’t help but be good (to be fair, all she has to do is scream). There are also some good transitions (the fish tank and the Mona Lisa fade). Michael Kamen’s score has its high points (though he recycled a lot of it in Die Hard), the Queen music’s good.
It’s an incompetent mess. The script’s a joke–the kind of thing a bunch of twelve year-old boys would come up with. Even if there were good moments in the script, someone would ruin them. Mulcahy cannot convey a narrative. He’s a beautiful director, but his use of wide angle, perception-distorting lenses is silly. Lots of Highlander looks like great montage shots, except they’re used in continuous action instead. Hart’s bad. Christopher Lambert’s performance is astounding. His subsequent career–not to mention his fan base–is inexplicable. And the way Mulcahy directs him? Highlander could play as a comedy, if it weren’t so well-lighted by cinematographer Gerry Fisher. Peter Honess’s editing is also sublime.
Some credit has to be given to the production for its ability to overlook its own stupidity. Nothing in the film–down to the impromptu homophobia, the chatty skid row motel clerk or the survivalist (who cruises Manhattan looking for trouble)–is ever insincere. The filmmakers really think they’re producing quality product here. It’s just too humorless for them to think otherwise.
Highlander suffers from being a dumb idea, poorly written, then poorly produced. I first saw Highlander, like most other people, on video (or maybe it was HBO… I think Highlander was an HBO hit). Maybe the movie’s just more suited for a nine year-old’s intellect (which does not explain why it gained a following of adults, of course), but it seems to just get more unimpressive with each viewing. I last saw it maybe eight years ago and was still a lot more impressed with the final sword fight. I don’t know what I was thinking, since there’s no suspense to it (Lambert never gets hit) and it’s really rather short.
With the possible exception of the Scottish clan battle at the beginning, the movie’s lack of epic scope is sort of surprising. The urban setting doesn’t lend itself, I suppose. This time, I made sure to watch the theatrical version, which is much less stupid than the director’s cut. Now, that thought’s scary… that Highlander could be even stupider.
Directed by Russell Mulcahy; screenplay by Gregory Widen, Peter Bellwood and Larry Ferguson, based on a story by Widen; director of photography, Gerry Fisher; edited by Peter Honess; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, Allan Cameron; produced by Peter S. Davis and William N. Panzer; released by 20th Century Fox.
Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Roxanne Hart (Brenda J. Wyatt), Clancy Brown (Victor Kruger), Sean Connery (Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez), Beatie Edney (Heather MacLeod), Alan North (Lieutenant Frank Moran), Jon Polito (Det. Walter Bedsoe), Sheila Gish (Rachel Ellenstein) and Hugh Quarshie (Sunda Kastagir).