Ancient Swords and Modern Silliness
At the Movies
Directed by Russell Mulcahy
At the USA 57
STAR WARS PROVED that, so far as realism in movies goes, you can fool all of the people all of the time, and they'll love you for it. But the plot of Highlander would make the Flat-worlders Society gasp with incredulity Immortal beings who can only be killed by decapitation battle with broadswords in modern day Manhattan for a prize of ultimate enlightenment? And all this accompanied by a Queen soundtrack? Simple fantasy characters like Conan could only stare uncomprehendingly at such a ridiculous plot.
But, if you can leave your cerebral tissue in a jar by the door, you'll have a lot of fun watching the fast-paced action, awesome sword fights, and the rollicking beat of this Swords and Silliness flick.
Chris Lambert plays Connor MacLeod, a Scotsman born in the 1500's who finds out that he's one of the world's few immortal beings. In the 16th century, he's the naive Luke Skywalker type. In modern Manhattan, he's the boss, with a bitter sense of humor that only four centuries of fighting and living in the fast lane could produce.
Playing Obi-Wan to Lambert's Skywalker is Sean Connery as the immortal Ramirez who instructs Lambert on the finer points of how immortals should fight and generally conduct themselves in a hostile world. Connery is disappointing in this role. His usually imposing suave control is dampened by the Spanish effeteness of his character. Lambert in his Manhattan scenes is actually cooler than Connery.
The love interests (you need at least two when you're talking about someone who's had 400 years to check out the dating scene) are uninspiring. MacLeod's first wife Heather (Beatie Edney) just dances around and looks pretty. Her biggest contribution to the plot is dying, which duly and predictably embitters the young MacLeod.
Brenda Wyatt (Roxanne Hart) is MacLeod's modern lover. She figures out MacLeod's identity, but is otherwise merely the fair maiden in constant distress, waiting for her four-century old knight in shining armour to rescue her.
The best of the secondary characters is Kurgan, played by Clancy Brown of The Bride fame. As the immortal (yes, another immortal) representation of evil, Kurgan seems strangely at home in downtown Manhattan. His attire looks as if it has been borrowed from The Terminator's prop room, but unlike Arnold, Kurgan has that all-important sense of humor. After all those centuries, its nice to see that he's still enjoying his work.
But the acting as a whole is mere window dressing. This is a film about sword fights, and what sword fights there are! The beginning and end of Highlander are so breathtakingly packed with expert swashbuckling and awesome scenery that the audience doesn't have time to stop and disbelieve. Well-timed, quick switches between the caverns of Manhattan and the beautiful Scottish landscape reduce the sensation of temporal incongruity to a minimum. The film should have never stopped to explain all this nonsense about immortality and the Prize. The sword fights and action scenes are what make Highlander a might-be-worth-seeing-at-matinee-prices movie.
So, for those who still buy Conan issues at Newbury comics, Highlander only requires a small leap of the imagination for fast-paced fun. The more serious moviegoer, however, may want to wait until he or she does not have to pay so much to have their credulity stretched so far.