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Film Review: Highlander
In 1986, Russell Mulcahy released Highlander which starred Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown, Roxanne Hart, Beatie Edney, Alan North, Jon Polito, Sheila Gish, Hugh Quarshie, Christopher Malcolm, Celia Imrie, Billy Hartman, James Cosmo, and Corinne Russell. The film grossed $12.9 million at the box office and launched a number of sequels and television spin-offs.
Connor MacLeod was born in the Scottish Highlands hundreds of years ago and now lives in 1980s New York City. He’s an immortal fighting his way through a battle to the last man called The Gathering when it comes down to him and his rival, The Kurgan. In the meantime, a forensic pathologist is investigating Connor, eventually finding out he’s immortal.
For a film that has a French actor play a Scotsman alongside a Scottish actor portraying an Egyptian pretending to be a Spaniard, Highlander is a pretty good and enjoyable film. It throws the audience a story about immortals battling it out to be the last man standing as there can be only one with it all coming down to Connor, a man who appreciates the value of human life, and The Kurgan, who takes an absurd amount of enjoyment in being as irreverent and sadistic as possible. At the same time, the film cuts back to Connor’s past, when he finds out that he’s immortal, his training by Ramírez and separation from the love of his life due to her death. Following along the present day plot, watching Connor and The Kurgan come ever closer to their fateful battle in conjunction with the plot set in the past, seeing how he becomes the person seen in the present day, is quite an enjoyable ride.
As stated above, Connor and The Kurgan are stark foils to each other and it works very well for the kind of film that’s presented. The former decides to go against Ramírez’ warnings and decides to love his wife, Heather, until the day of her death and even loves her beyond that by deciding not to delve into the realms of romance until he meets Brenda. Further, Connor is seen as being friendly to other immortals that don’t try to kill him during the first meeting, shown when he and Sunda go out for a drink before the latter is beheaded by The Kurgan. Also, Connor is seen as not having wasted the years his immortality has given him, spending time soaking in fine arts, poetry and music, even becoming an antique dealer. However, even though he’s a patron of culture more than anything, he’s still a hardy enough warrior to do battle against the immortals who challenge him, with his first act in the film being that of winning a duel after a wrestling match.
On the other hand, there’s Connor’s arch-enemy, The Kurgan, who Ramírez calls “the perfect warrior.” As already stated, he relishes in sadism and enjoys killing, having honed his skills throughout the centuries. He’s also pretty aware of his skills, seen in his boasts before and during his battles with other immortals, gloating that he’s the strongest over Ramírez. There’s also his irreverence for anyone or anything that’s not him with the film depicting him as having a massive amount of enjoyment every time he engages in an activity where people are disturbed our outright threatened. In one scene, he’s driving across New York like a crazed madman laughing at the carnage he’s causing in his wake and in another, he’s gloating over his raping of Connor’s wife many centuries ago, obviously enjoying his memory of the event. All this, plus his letting the survivalist that shoots him following his battle with Sunda live, shows that mortal humans mean so little to him that he doesn’t think killing them is actually worth it. The only thing he cares about is The Prize and killing every immortal to get it. However, as evil as he is, The Kurgan still respects the one law against fighting on holy ground, though it doesn’t stop him from making passes at some nuns.
Yet, despite what the film has going for it, that doesn’t mean it’s without problems. For one, it wasted quite a bit of potential with The Gathering. It’s supposed to be all the immortals that are left converging on New York City and fighting it out until the last man standing. However, it would appear that there were only four immortals left by then: Connor, Iman, Sunda, and The Kurgan. Another problem lies in the lack of explanation and development surrounding The Prize. Granted, no one really knows what it is or will be until they become the last man standing, but once Connor beats The Kurgan, all that’s presented are the bizarre visuals surrounding him as he takes it in followed by a voiceover where he says he’s become mortal, can hear everybody’s thoughts and will use this power by helping them. It’s a great concept, but that’s all it feels like, with it seeming as if the filmmakers spent so much time on getting to Connor winning The Prize that they weren’t able to spend enough time fleshing out The Prize and all it entails.