Highlander: Endgame
Highlander: Endgame

USA, 2000. Rated R. 87 minutes.

Cast: Christopher Lambert, Adrian Paul, Bruce Payne, Lisa Barbuscia, Donnie Yen, Adam Copeland (as "Edge"), Ian Paul Cassidy, Jim Byrnes, Peter Wingfield, Damon Dash, Beatie Edney
Writers: Story by Eric Bernt, Gillian Horvath, and Bill Panzer; screenplay by Joel Soisson; characters created by Gregory Widen
Music: Nick Glennie-Smith, Stephen Graziano
Cinematography: Douglas Milsome
Producers: Peter S. Davis, William N. Panzer
Director: Douglas Aarniokoski


Grade: F Review by Carlo Cavagna

A  movie that requires intimate knowledge of the Highlander franchise to digest its half-baked story, Highlander: Endgame is the fourth sequel to a film designed to stand alone. In 1986, Highlander established the premise of a small group of Immortals living among us, battling each other across the centuries to become the last survivor of the species and thus earn a "Prize" that makes him all-powerful. Highlander's tagline: "In the end, there can be only one."

Highlander (rating: B) didn't make waves in U.S. movie theaters, but became a huge transatlantic cult hit on video. Driven by Russell Mulcahy's stylish music-video direction and Queen's energetic soundtrack, Highlander also boasted a stellar supporting turn from Sean Connery. Connery would win an Oscar™ the following year for playing essentially the same wise-but-tough mentor in The Untouchables and recycle the character in a dozen subsequent films, but because Highlander came before all that, Connery's performance was memorable, not stale. Similarly, Highlander was released before the music video style became commonplace in feature films and before Christopher Lambert (who portrayed title character Conor MacLeod) became a joke in the United States. Though not a dynamic actor, Lambert made a sufficiently dark and brooding hero who oozed bestubbled, glowering sex appeal.Christopher Lambert and Adrian Paul

Highlander's success eventually made a sequel inevitable, but the creators had to struggle with a problem: the conclusion of Highlander precluded the possibility of continuing the story. Remember, the concept was that there could be only one. They had a hero with no one to fight. Undeterred, Highlander II (rating: D-) imported immortals from another planet and even brought Connery back from the dead. The idea worked so poorly that Highlander 3 (rating: D+) proceeded as if the first attempt at a sequel had never been made, and instead released three presumed-dead immortals from a cave where they had been buried alive for centuries, raising the esoteric metaphysical question of how one can earn a magical prize that requires the death of all other Immortals and then have it revoked because not all of them were actually dead.

Highlander also begat a syndicated television series, which introduced Conor's distant cousin Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) and a wide array of unappealing supporting characters. The writers didn't know what to do with the Highlander concept. Highlander the Series was simply pedestrian one-hour confrontations pitting Duncan MacLeod against one overacting nefarious Immortal after another, each a pale imitation of Clancy Brown's delicious overarching villainy in the first film. Originally a tiny group, the number of Immortals grew exponentially to the point where it seemed that every other person walking down the street was one. The writers eventually developed wider story possibilities by introducing The Watchers (an organization of humans dedicated to observing Immortals without interfering in their affairs), but it was too late to save the series.

Why this Highlander history lesson? Because instead of being a sequel to the first three Highlander movies, Endgame is an extension of the television series, on which Lambert guest-starred a once or twice. It follows the same episodic format, meaning that there is not only one left at the end, belying the promise of the title and leaving the door open for more insipid installments. Fans of the original movie who never followed the series will be disappointed. Even though Lambert gets top billing and equal screen time, Paul's Duncan MacLeod is the real hero. Those who ignored the TV series (and who didn't, really?) will also find bewildering the cameos by recurring series characters, including Jim Byrnes as Dawson, a Watcher, and Peter Wingfield as Methos, a 5000-year-old Immortal who has renounced violence. There are cameos by characters from the original Highlander, too (Beatie Edney as Heather and Sheila Gish as Rachel), but their scenes, like Lambert's, are all revisionist history.

The movie itself is a disaster. The plot and the characters' motivations are nonsense. Lambert's character has nowhere to go, and his once-magnetic glower is tired and worn. Several opportunities for spectacular action are squandered because the movie's villain (Bruce Payne) has a tendency to execute summarily his own henchmen. Paul's modicum of charisma, director Douglas Aarniokoski's broad panoramas that recall the original Highlander, and Lambert's amusing skirmishes with a Scottish accent are not enough to provide any redeeming value. In the end, there should have been only one.

Review © October 2000 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2000 Dimension Films. All Rights Reserved.

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