"Highlander" is a curious movie, well any movie that has a Scot playing an Egyptian and a Frenchman playing a Scot has got to go down in anyone's book as being curious. But it is curious for more than just this casting, it's curious because in many ways it's a bad movie, Christopher Lambert's grasp of English at the time came across as weak, director Russell Mulcahy turned every scene into something which looked like it should be in a movie video and for such a silly idea everything is played out seriously. Yet what is technically a bad movie, and it flopped when it was originally released, not only has a cult following but spawned sequels and a TV show. In many ways "Highlander" doesn't make sense, both the actual story and why it's so popular, but it is and I count myself as one of those who love it even though I know so much about it is wrong. Of course it certainly helps that it has one of the best rock soundtracks ever created thanks to "Queen".
Born in the early part of the 16th century Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) should have died in battle, he was at death's door but the next morning he is so alive and well that the rest of his Scottish village believe him to be possessed by demons and banish him. It is Connor's first experience of being an immortal a subject he will learn a lot more about from Egyptian Ramirez (Sean Connery - Never Say Never Again) who shows up and not only tries to make sense of what being an immortal is but trains him to fight. For one day all the immortals on the planet will be called to "The Gathering" where they must fight until only one remains and unless Ramirez makes Connor ready that one who survives could be the evil Victor Kruger (Clancy Brown - The Hurricane).
As storylines go there is something quite enjoyable about "Highlander" with the idea of these immortals who are forced to live forever unless they are beheaded. And the whole idea that eventually they will be called to "The Gathering" where only one can remain is entertaining. It throws up some interesting ideas about being immortal being a curse as not only we watch Connor being treated like a demon in his Scottish village when he should have died but see how he has to deal with those close to him growing old and dying. And as such there are some fun scenes about what Connor has got up to over the centuries, a humorous duel as well as fighting in a World War.
But then there is the other side to this and the whole mystery of being immortal. The minute we discover that there are immortals we want to know why, we also want to know why they must be called to "The Gathering" so their can be only one and there are other questions. But we don't get answers or at least satisfactory ones which makes it all a bit silly, entertaining but still silly.
Now despite not getting answers to those important questions the way "Highlander" is constructed is quite good. We have the story in the present as the immortals are summoned to "The Gathering" and so basically we have Connor having to face his nemesis Victor Kruger. At the same time we have a semi romance as sword specialist Brenda starts sniffing around and discovers the truth about Connor or Nash as he goes by. And interweaved in this is how Connor came to know he is an immortal, from the first fight when he should have died to meeting the Egyptian Ramirez who trains him to fight and what being an immortal means as in the sacrifices he will have to make.
But then whilst these interweaving stories work everything has a look of being a music video. Part of this has to be down to director Russell Mulcahy having been in the music video business prior to directing "Highlander" and part has to be down to the fantastic "Queen" soundtrack. But it does make it feel a little cheesy when you have sword fights going on in alleys which seem to be blue lit with the obligatory steam giving it a border. And sadly it also means some of the action ends up cheesy such as Fasil, one of the immortals doing a series of back flips, don't ask me why just another "Highlander" mystery.
And then there is the acting and whilst there are various characters in "Highlander" there really are just four main ones and two are good and two are not. The good performances are Sean Connery as Ramirez and Clancy Brown as Victor Kruger although it is ironic that we have a Scot playing an Egyptian with Connery's trademark accent being unchanged. Both Connery and Brown deliver entertaining characters be it the comically confident Ramirez or the plainly evil Kruger, in fact Brown's Kruger is so entertainingly over the top and menacing that he ends up more entertaining than our hero Connor MacLeod. As for Connor well Christopher Lambert has the look, he delivers the right emotions and looks good in the action scenes yet that accent and what appears to be Lambert struggling with English being a problem. It also helps that the whole romance side of things with sword expert Brenda being incredibly weak which unfortunately makes Roxanne Hart's performance appear weak as well.
What this all boils down to is that "Highlander" is a curious movie because it isn't a good movie, it has numerous issues and is quite silly yet it is also strangely entertaining. It certainly didn't deserve to be a flop when it was first released but even now I am still bemused by how this flawed movie has ended up so popular even though I enjoy it.