REVIEW – ‘Highlander’

Written by J.T. Johnson

4-stars

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: March 7, 1986
DIRECTOR: Russell Mulcahy
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gerry Fisher
WRITERS: Gregory Widen, Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson
MUSIC: Queen, Michael Kamen

In 1986, director Russell Mulcahy’s “Highlander” was released. It told the story of a group of immortals who were fighting for the chance to be the last one standing. In other words, there can only be one!

Since its release, “Highlander” has spawned several sequels and TV series and the film itself has since become a cult classic. Not bad for a story that started as a class project.

According to producer Bill Panzer, story creator Gregory Widen was a student at film school who wrote a script after visiting Scotland. Widen’s inspiration came after he saw a suit of armor and wondered what it would be like if the guy who wore that armor were alive today. This lead to the story of immortals that are in conflict with one another and leading secret lives that none of the mortals are aware about.

The story of the film tells that of Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), a highlander who was born in the year 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. In 1536, his clan is in conflict with the Clan Fraser. After riding into his first battle, a large savage known as the Kurgan (Clancy Brown) mortally wounds Connor.

After impossibly surviving from his wounds, Connor is banished from his clan because they think the devil has possessed him. Then, he becomes a blacksmith and has a wife. All is well.

That is, until Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Sean Connery) locates him. Ramirez explains to Connor that they are both immortals and that one day, there will be a Gathering and the only immortal left standing will be the one to win the Prize. As I mentioned above, “There can be only one.”

All of this information is intercut with a story unfolding in New York in 1985, where Connor and the remaining immortals are finally battling for the Prize. Soon, it becomes apparent that Connor and the Kurgan will have to face each other one last time in the ultimate battle of good vs. evil.

One of the biggest things going for this film is Christopher Lambert as Connor MacLeod. No one can play this role other than Lambert because he has completely made the role his. He is great at making Connor a character who is in constant pain and alone in the world due to the fact that he has had to see so many die while he has lived, including his beloved wife (Beatie Edney).

But he is also quick to make Connor realize that this is the time all immortals have been waiting on and he is not afraid to attack when necessary. There is an evolution to the character as MacLeod goes through being a clansman to beloved husband to a lonely depressed man who is more afraid of living than dying. Lambert makes the audience believe this and makes the film better for it.

Another actor of note is Sean Connery as Ramirez. Connery plays the classical role of the mentor. Ramirez is Merlin to Connor’s Arthur. Connery understands this and is perfect as the wise old man who shows the young, naïve man the way.

Clancy Brown is also the perfect character actor and was the best choice for the character known as the Kurgan. The Kurgan is one of the nastiest characters to grace films. Again, like Connery, Brown knows that Kurgan is a savage and takes a certain amount of devious delight out of playing the character.

The film is not without its problems, however. The biggest problem is that it is obvious that the film was shot on a tight budget and a lot of the visuals do not hold up to today’s standards. Also, while it is great to have Queen in the background playing every song, this also dates the film.

Despite the dated look, however, “Highlander” is worthy of being a true cult classic and has entertained audiences for the past 23 years. It is a definite must see film. Also, a note on the sequels: screw ‘em. There can be only one!

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