In ‘Highlander,’ No End to Carnage
“Highlander: Endgame” brings the popular, Gothic, supernatural fantasy-adventure series to a spectacular finish--but leaving immortality with a really bad name. That’s because Christopher Lambert’s Connor MacLeod and his younger clansman, Duncan (Adrian Paul, who starred in the “Highlander” TV series), seem to spend most of their limitless time in bloody combat, fighting off bad guys across the centuries.
No wonder Connor remarks to Duncan in despair, “Every life I touch ends in killing without a reason,” after his archenemy blows up his foster daughter in her Manhattan antique shop. In nearly 500 years, Connor in fact has slain 262 adversaries--to Duncan’s mere 174. But that archenemy, Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne, a world-class scenery-chewer), has slain 661 people, and he is rapidly becoming so powerful his evil threatens to escalate beyond defeat.
Connor and Jacob, originally best friends, became enemies way back in the 16th century in the Scottish Highlands. A priest declared Connor’s mother a witch and ordered her burned at the stake while her son watched behind bars. Connor breaks loose, saves his mother from incineration though not death and in revenge kills the priest, upsetting Jacob mightily. When in the ensuing melee Connor receives a wound that ought to have been fatal, he discovers that he is one of the Immortals and has been around for some 5,000 years without realizing it--and that Jacob is one of the Immortals, too.
We time-travel over the past half-millennium, checking in on the respective battles of the MacLeods and Kell and we’re made to feel that we’ve missed none of them. At long last Connor and Duncan have a final face-off with Kell on a Manhattan rooftop--but only one of the MacLeods, by Immortal rules, can go up against Kell. (For “Highlander” trivia buffs, the only way you can kill an Immortal is by separating his head from his body.)
Filmed largely in Romania, “Highlander: Endgame” looks sensational, moves like lightning. But its script (by Joel Soisson) makes no pretense about being logical or even comprehensible, which undermines Douglas Aarniokoski’s vigorous, commanding direction and Lambert’s and Paul’s surprisingly poignant performances. It celebrates extreme combat between men and then suggests that this can become wearying after awhile to even the most durable of warriors. Even more wearying, unless you’re a rabid Highlander fan, is having to watch all this carnage.
* MPAA rating: R, for violence and some strong sexuality. Times guidelines: extreme violence, high casualty count, one sex scene.
Christopher Lambert: Connor MacLeod
Adrian Paul: Duncan MacLeod
Bruce Payne: Jacob Kell
Lisa Barbuscia: Kate/Faith
A Dimension Films presentation. Director Douglas Aarniokoski. Producers Peter Davis, William Panzer. Executive producers Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Cary Granat. Screenplay by Joel Soisson; from a story by Eric Bernt and Gillian Horvath & William Panzer and based on characters created by Gregory Widen. Cinematographer Doug Milsome. Editors Tracy Granger, Rod Dean, Donald J. Paonessa. Music Stephen Graziano. Costumes Wendy Partridge. Production designer Jonathan Carlson. Set decorator Mary Beth Noble. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.
In general release.