Tag Archives: Christopher Lambert

Highlander: Endgame (2000, Douglas Aarniokoski)

For all intents and purposes, there’s nothing nice to say about Highlander: Endgame. Maybe there’s an almost all right moment between Lisa Barbuscia and Adrian Paul. They’re married, but estranged. They’re both immortal, something he didn’t tell her before killing her to bring about her immortal existence. It’s terribly handled in the flashback sequences and not exactly done well in the modern day stuff, but Paul can emote serious without actually being able to act serious and Barbuscia really isn’t bad when she’s not playing an evil tough guy. It’s like Paul and Barbuscia remembered a better scene from an acting class and tried it out in Endgame. But, otherwise, it’s bereft of quality.

Joel Soisson’s script isn’t good, but it’s not utter crap. It’s mildly competent. If director Aarniokoski had any ability whatsoever, the film would have moved. But there’s also Douglas Milsome’s awful photography, the six terrible editors, the lame music, the cheap looking sets, the lousy special effects. Even Christopher Lambert deserves better than Aarniokoski. Lambert’s a trooper. He’s bad, but he’s willing. Aarniokoski doesn’t do anything with him. Aarniokoski’s camera doesn’t have any connection with the characters. It’s so bad. Aarniokoski does a really, really bad job. And Milsome enables some of it.

Because, Endgame is a part of what was once an almost reputable cult franchise. Things went wrong, but Highlander was an HBO hit in the eighties when HBO movie hits mattered. And Endgame is even more horrifying because it actually tries really hard to be a sequel to the original movie. It can’t be a sequel to the original because it’s a sequel to the TV show, but it wants to pretend. Aarniokoski doesn’t care enough pretend, but Lambert and the script want to pretend. So it’s depressing. It’s actually depressing.

Endgame is about pitying the people who tried to care about it. Not just the actors, but the audience. Watching this movie makes you feel bad for the other people who have seen it.

Lousy performance from Bruce Payne as the villain. It’d be laughable but it always feels like there’s a chance Payne is intentionally doing vamp camp so maybe it’s somehow brilliant. But it can’t be because Aarniokoski’s bad at directing actors too. He’s bad at filming actors act. It’s an incredibly poorly directed film. It’s stunning.

Oh, and Donnie Yen’s good. Beatie Edney too. She manages to have class, which is something because there’s no class anywhere else in this picture.

It doesn’t even move well. It’s less than ninety minutes and there’s always action and it doesn’t even move. Endgame is the pits.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski; screenplay by Joel Soisson, based on a story by Eric Bernt, Gillian Horvath and William N. Panzer and characters created by Gregory Widen; director of photography, Douglas Milsome; edited by Chris Blunden, Rod Dean, Robert A. Ferretti, Tracy Granger, Michael N. Knue and Donald Paonessa; music by Nick Glennie-Smith and Stephen Graziano; production designers, Jonathan A. Carlson and Stephen Scott; produced by Peter S. Davis, Panzer and Brian Gordon; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Adrian Paul (Duncan MacLeod), Bruce Payne (Jacob Kell), Lisa Barbuscia (Faith), Donnie Yen (Jin Ke), Jim Byrnes (Joe Dawson), Peter Wingfield (Methos), Damon Dash (Carlos), Beatie Edney (Heather), Sheila Gish (Rachel) and June Watson (Caiolin MacLeod)


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Highlander: The Final Dimension (1994, Andrew Morahan), the European version

About the only complementary thing in Highlander: The Final Dimension is Steven Chivers’s photography. The film’s got a terrible color palette, which isn’t a surprise since all of director Morahan’s decisions are bad, but Chivers never lets the film look cheap. It’s clearly cheap, but Chivers refuses to acknowledge it. It’s kind of cool. But only with a qualifier or two, because the crappy color palettes are a real problem. Most of Morahan’s direction is bad and Chivers does nothing to alleviate its damage on the film.

Well, I suppose there really isn’t much you could do for Final Dimension. A better director would have helped, but only so much. It’s one of those pictures not just without anything going for it, but without anything good in it. Deborah Kara Unger arguably gives the film’s best performance, but only because it’s the least worst. Unless you count Mako, who stands in for Sean Connery in this entry. He manages to keep a straight face opposite Christopher Lambert.

Final Dimension is one of those too craven sequels. It borrows story beat after story beat from the first film–though Unger doesn’t even get to be the damsel in distress, Lambert’s got a little kid to threaten in this entry. As that little kid, Gabriel Kakon is atrocious. No surprise, but Morahan can’t direct actors either. So it’s like watching all the action from the first film done in Panavision by a bad director shooting it in Canada. With photographer Chivers trying so hard to distract from its lack of domestic shooting locations, he just makes the film look terrible to hide it. Like I said, it’s kind of admirable. Chivers can clearly do a better job–lighting this terrible palette takes skills–but he doesn’t. There’s no excelling in the Final Dimension.

As the villain, Mario Van Peebles is almost funny. He’s just strange enough not to be sad, but he’s not strange enough to be interesting. A lot of it is an objectively bad performance. Some of it has the promise of a better performance. Again, Morahan. Also, it’s a terrible script. What is anyone going to do with a terrible script? Unger tries with her crusading archeologist bit but once the film gets her clothes off, it stops giving her anything to do.

Really bad performance from Martin Neufeld as the angry cop who’s after Lambert. Final Dimension fails on every level. It can’t even do bit parts well. It doesn’t have a script going for it, doesn’t have a director, doesn’t have production values (awful music from J. Peter Robinson, bad editing from Yves Langlois), but it doesn’t even have a good casting director. Maybe because there’s no credited casting director.

It’s a movie with a terrible Christopher Lambert performance I don’t even want to pick on. It’s such a bad script, turning Lambert into a nineties action hero dad while more T–800 than Highlander… it’s not a fair fight. Amid all the crappy work in Highlander: The Final Dimension, there apparently can be only one to do the crappiest work and it’s screenwriter Paul Ohl.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Andrew Morahan; screenplay by Paul Ohl, based on a story by Brad Mirman and William N. Panzer and characters created by Gregory Widen; director of photography, Steven Chivers; edited by Yves Langlois; music by J. Peter Robinson; production designers, Gilles Aird and Ben Morahan; produced by Claude Léger; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Mario Van Peebles (Kane), Deborah Kara Unger (Alex Johnson), Gabriel Kakon (John MacLeod), Martin Neufeld (Lt. John Stenn), Daniel Do (Dr. Fuji Takamura), Michael Jayston (Jack Donovan) and Mako (Nakano).


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Highlander II: The Quickening (1991, Russell Mulcahy)

Highlander II: The Quickening has had a reputation as a sequel disaster since its release. Outside of “Starlog” write-ups, did anyone ever pretend to be excited about this film? But since its initial release (and multiple home video re-releases with different editing), The Quickening has actually gotten to be a wonderful time capsule of its era and situation.

The film is desperate. It goes all out. People like hoverboards from Back to the Future Part II, let’s have hoverboards. The ladies liked stars Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery with long hair in the first one, let’s do all long hair in the second one. Highlander 2 ought to be subtitled Big Hair and Big Swords because it’s desperate enough to give villain Michael Ironside long hair, presumably to make him… sexy?

Now. Ironside. Real quick. He ought to look embarrassed and he doesn’t. He gets through. John C. McGinley not so much, but Ironside gets through. He’s the lamest early nineties movie villain–a mix of the savage punk villain from the previous Highlander and Jack Nicholson’s Joker from Batman–but Ironside does get through it.

Sean Connery’s actually okay enough. Lambert’s bad but how could anyone be good. He’s so bad he’s better under the old age make-up at the beginning than when he’s young again.

Virginia Madsen is not good as the love interest. It’s a terrible part, but she’s still not good. Oh, look, a metaphor for the entire film. It’s terrible for multiple reasons, but it could never be good. Even when Highlander 2 does something right for a little while, it gets screwed up. Director Mulcahy has a handful of decent concepts, but they’re either too short or ultimately fail. And when it seems like a perfect Mulcahy moment–many of the sets are enormous so Mulcahy can do his swinging crane shots–he never takes advantage. It’s puzzling and disconcerting.

Weird score from Stewart Copeland, weirder pop soundtrack. Both are bad, but interesting in their weirdness. Like everything else, they’re desperate to appear hip. Peter Bellwood’s lousy script apes corporations as bad guys from Robocop and Total Recall, bringing along poor Ironside from that latter as well. Highlander 2 is a sequel to a cable and home video hit desperately trying to be a cable and home video hit.

I suppose it’s oddly appropriate a film about immortality is also such a perfect time capsule of a popular filmmaking era. It’s such a perfect example of it, I’m only moderately embarrassed to have written over 400 words about it right now.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Russell Mulcahy; screenplay by Peter Bellwood, based on a story by Brian Clemens and William N. Panzer and characters created by Gregory Widen; director of photography, Phil Meheux; edited by Hubert C. de la Bouillerie and Anthony Redman; music by Stewart Copeland; production designer, Roger Hall; produced by Jean-Luc Defait, Ziad El Khoury, Peter S. Davis and Panzer; released by Interstar.

Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Sean Connery (Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez), Virginia Madsen (Louise Marcus), Michael Ironside (General Katana), Allan Rich (Allan Neyman), John C. McGinley (David Blake) and Ed Trucco (Jimmy).


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Mortal Kombat (1995, Paul W.S. Anderson)

I can’t think of another movie with such a dearth of acting ability. It’s another reason Mortal Kombat, specifically its financial success, is something of a milestone. Combined with the terrible CG, the movie’s box office achievement shows how little general audiences—specifically males—care about anything of quality.

I think Trevor Goddard gives the best performance. He’s supposed to be evil and dumb. I believed his character to be both.

For such a big movie, Mortal Kombat only has a handful of actors, supporting and principal. Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson, Christopher Lambert and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa are basically the speaking cast (in addition to Goddard).

In another achievement, the film actually features a Lambert performance where he’s better than someone else. Tagawa’s exaggerated facial expressions suggest director Anderson told him to perform like a maniacal cartoon. It’s truly one of the silliest, bad performances.

The earnest attempts—from Shou and Wilson—are no better. Shou struts around with hair from an eighties band (all he needs is a hat). In fact, a hat would help, it might be able to act. Wilson’s even worse. Some of her problem is screenwriter Droney’s dialogue, but not all of it. She’s just awful. When the film follows her, it’s hard to believe Anderson and the crew were able to shoot the scene without giggling.

Ashby’s weak, also because of the script, but I suppose he’s better than Shou and Wilson.

Anderson’s got some decent setups, but Mortal Kombat’s still dreadful.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; screenplay by Kevin Droney, based on video games by Ed Boon and John Tobias; director of photography, John R. Leonetti; edited by Martin Hunter; music by George S. Clinton; production designer, Jonathan A. Carlson; produced by Lauri Apelian and Lawrence Kasanoff; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Robin Shou (Liu Kang), Linden Ashby (Johnny Cage), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Shang Tsung), Bridgette Wilson (Sonya Blade), Talisa Soto (Princess Kitana), Trevor Goddard (Kano), Chris Casamassa (Scorpion), François Petit (Sub-Zero) and Christopher Lambert (Lord Rayden).


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