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MOVIE REVIEW : Action-Fantasy ‘Highlander 2’ Tries to Sort It All Out

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Highlander 2: The Quickening” (citywide) improves upon the original. This doesn’t mean that it’s anywhere near a classic of time-travel fantasy adventure. Rather, as both prequel and sequel, it makes clearer much that was so vague in the original; it even jokes about how confusing its premise is. In short, audiences who made the first film successful enough to warrant a second will be getting a bit more for their money.

Once again, Christopher Lambert, in the title role, is the 16th-Century Scotsman Connor MacLeod, who cannot die except by decapitation. It seems that there are a handful of these immortals on Earth who will duel until only one is left, and who then becomes the winner of the Prize of Ultimate Knowledge and Power.

Although their script is far too overly complicated and not nearly as coherent as one would wish, writer Peter Bellwood does helpfully explain this time that MacLeod and his mentor Juan Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Sean Connery) are aliens from another planet, Zeist, and had been banished to Earth more than 400 years ago for rebelling against Zeist’s dictator, Gen. Katana (Michael Ironside).

Now it’s 2024, and MacLeod is a lonely 75-year-old widower who 25 years earlier had devised an energy shield to protect the Earth from an evaporated ozone layer, resulting in little difference between day and night. Once a hero celebrated for preserving mankind, he is now widely reviled because the planet seems to be dying in its perpetual near-darkness. However, once MacLeod regains his youth via electrocution, no less, two events occur to give him a new lease on life.

After all these centuries, Katana and his minions come to Earth themselves because the Zeistians are still convinced that one day MacLeod will return to lead a revolution. At the same time, an environmental terrorist (Virginia Madsen) and her group are trying to sabotage the energy shield because she has evidence that the ozone layer has repaired itself. Pretty soon, MacLeod calls for old pal Ramirez’s help; apparently--and confoundingly--they’re never going to duel for the Prize.

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Filmed entirely in Argentina, “Highlander 2" is far more elaborate than the original, set in a grungy cityscape that is part “Batman” and part “Blade Runner,” and for all its spectacular scale, nonetheless, has some painted backdrops that wouldn’t fool a youngster. It’s a picture rife with explosions, and sparks literally fly in virtually every scene. Lambert, Connery (who has considerably more screen time than in the original), Ironside (who races a subway train with maniacal glee) and Madsen seem to be enjoying themselves.

Directed by Russell Mulcahy with the same dash and flash he brought to the first film, “Highlander 2" (rated R for strong violence, and for some language), like the original, is best left to those who don’t feel compelled to sort it out.

‘Highlander 2: The Quickening’

Christopher Lambert: Connor MacLeod

Sean Connery: Juan Villa-Lobos Ramirez

Virginia Madsen: Louise Marcus

Michael Ironside: General Katana

An InterStar Releasing and Ziad El Khoury & Jean-Luc Defait in association with Lamb Bear Entertainment presentation. Director Russell Mulcahy. Producers Peter Davis & William Panzer. Executive producers Guy Colins & Mario Sotela. Screenplay by Peter Bellwood, based on characters created by Gregory Widen. Story by Brian Clemens & Panzer. Cinematographer Phil Meheux. Editors Hubert C. de la Bouillerie, G. Anthony Redman. Costumes Deborah Everton. Stewart Copeland. Production design Roger Hall. Supervising art director John King. Sound Ed White. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.

MPAA-rated R (for strong violence and some language).


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