Highlander was a big success, less for box office business and more for starting a franchise that to date includes four live action sequels and one animated, plus two live action TV shows and a cartoon. So how does the original hold up after more than 20 years? Not too well, to be honest.
The casting was always a little suspect â€“ Sean Connery I can accept as an Egyptian (via Spain) becauseâ€¦well heâ€™s Sean and has that hypnotic quality real stars have which stops you asking â€œWhy does that Egyptian (via Spain) sound like he comes from Edinburgh?â€ This quality isnâ€™t shared by Christopher Lambert, not an actor who would leap to my mind were I looking for someone to play a Scot circa 1536. Lambertâ€™s limited range saw him rapidly descend from starring roles in theatrical films to straight-to-video fare. In Highlander he fails to convince as a Scotsman or as an action hero, with the sword fights looking pedestrian by todayâ€™s standards and never remotely life threatening.
Roxanne Hart is even less impressive than Lambert, showing zero chemistry with the films star (despite the obligatory â€˜80s sex scene) and almost as little personality. Thank god for Clancy Brown, who, as the villainous Kurgan, just about makes the film watchable. He may have no depth as a character but as a display of comic book style villainy itâ€™s great fun. Heâ€™s funny, heâ€™s nasty, heâ€™s just so much more entertaining than Lambertâ€™s Conner MacLeod.
The biggest disappointment though was the films look. I used to think Russell Mulcahyâ€™s film oozed style, and in truth it does, itâ€™s just that said style is â€˜80s pop video chic. One scene, where Conner walks outside after leaving Hartâ€™s characterâ€™s apartment, overuses the smoke machine to such an extent that I wasnâ€™t sure if it was supposed to be a foggy night or if the building next door was burning down. Itâ€™s no surprise now that Mulcahyâ€™s career didnâ€™t reach the heights Iâ€™d once expected it to, the film is all surface gloss and no heart.
And the payoff is, and has always been even when the rest of the film seemed cool, a complete letdown. â€œThe Prizeâ€ turning out to be less of a lottery win and more the kind youâ€™d find in a cheap Christmas cracker. Itâ€™s no wonder the sequels and TV seriesâ€™ ended up being so contradictory of both each other and the original.
Some films stand the test of time, some donâ€™t, Highlander falls into the latter category.