There are bad movies like…well, almost everything I give detailed, long reviews on this site…and then there are just campy movies. These are the movies that just do so many goofy things and go so over the top that you can’t help but laugh – all the way through the movie. They’re bad, but they’re bad in a fun way! Everyone knows ‘em and everyone loves ‘em. And one prime example of this phenomenon is Highlander, revered the world over and even the starter of a huge franchise including 4 more movies after it and a TV series, even. That’s a lot of praise. It’s kind of like giving Killer Klowns from Outer Space its own franchise, only this movie makes THAT one look positively tame in comparison! Is Highlander really as good as everyone says it is, or is it just a big ol’ flop? Let’s find out.
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery
The movie begins in the simpler times when boys and girls had the same goofy mullet haircuts and wrestlers with hairy chests brought in huge crowds with their neon spandex – the 80s! Yes, that glorious time…but we’re focusing on a very serious looking guy in a rape trench coat who feels like he has to go out into the parking lot and get into a sword fight with one of the rejected Mr. Smiths from The Matrix. Don’t we all have those impulses?
|Can you see why they rejected him for Mr. Smith? Not exactly the picture of athletic health there...but he was good enough for this movie's randomness!|
So after cutting off the guy’s head, he goes and sits back down in the fight, and then we get a sudden flashback to medieval Scotland! Do you think that doesn’t make sense? Well then you’re an idiot; it makes perfect sense! No, seriously; this just comes out of nowhere! Were they high or something making this? Don’t answer that…it was a rhetorical question.
Apparently the story here is that McLeod, a respected soldier in the army, and they get into a fight with a guy who looks like a rejected He-Man villain, in which McLeod is killed.
We then flash back to present-day times where Mr. Rape Trench Coat, or McLeod again (confused yet?), is being arrested for cutting off the guy’s head. They interrogate him at the police station and they have his weapon and know he was at the crime scene, and he even assaults them in the interrogation room, so what do they do? Let him go a few minutes later of course. No point in looking up his records, keeping him on the charges of assaulting an officer or interrogating him for longer than a few minutes, right? Best. Cops. Ever.
Some more poorly cut-and-pasted flashbacks reveal that McLeod came back from the dead somehow and shocked everyone in his village, who shunned him and threw him out, intending to kill him. They tie him up and are about to get rid of him when one of his old buddies has a change of heart and somehow lets him go…although he still didn’t have the sense to untie him, I guess. Some friend there. But I guess you really can’t have your cake and eat it too.
In the present times, McLeod is followed by some kind of police officer/archaeologist (how does that work again?) who I will describe as the most generic 80s movie chick ever. Seriously, she’s got the curly, poofy hair. She’s got the rebellious, nosy attitude that’s going to lead her to trouble later. She’s got the spunky, no-nonsense relationship with the main character that she dislikes at first. Could she be any more generic? Might as well just give her a name like…I don’t know, Julie, or Brenda or something.
What’s that? Her name IS Brenda? Well…I rest my case. So for some reason, McLeod follows her to the crime scene where she’s investigating for the second time, and then he approaches her in a bar and acts creepy and weird. So of course she accuses him of stalking her and then storms off angrily! But when he goes into the alleyway and gets attacked by what I can only describe as the bastard son of Shredder from Ninja Turtles, Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget and a horrible BDSM fetish all rolled up into the goofiest villain you’ll ever see:
So after that’s over, we see that Brenda has followed McLeod into the alley despite everything she said before about stalking being bad. Friggin’ double standards. They make a date at her apartment and I guess everything is peachy, so it’s time for another flashback!
We get to see that McLeod is now living idly in the mountains with his new wife, who he probably neglected to tell about the whole coming back from the dead thing. I so love relationships built on not telling your partner the whole truth! They’re having sex in the middle of a field when they’re interrupted by…
Oh, God, no. You can’t just…throw this at us, movie. It’s Sean Connery in a flamboyant outfit that looks like something out of a period-piece porno flick or something. But to be fair, it IS Sean Connery, and as expected, he makes the role completely awesome in every way. He’s just a great actor, with tons of charisma and verve to him. But there is that small problem of him playing a Spaniard character and then speaking in an unabashed Scottish accent. But I guess it makes as much sense as anything else in the movie…
Anyway, it turns out the big story behind this whole ordeal is that McLeod is immortal, and was born into a sort of eternal battle, in which he has to train for in order to be ‘the one.’ That's the big line this movie popularized - "There can be only one!" I have to admit it's pretty epic. There’s something called ‘the Quickening’ that is prophesized to happen, apparently, in the 80s, which is appropriate because that’s when this movie was made! What a coincidence! So Connery trains McLeod for a long time and they run barefoot on the beach like a medieval Hallmark card, and it’s all good.
|I want to spar with Sean Connery's stunt double too!|
|This is so happy that NOTHING could ever go wrong, right?!|
Back in the present time, we get McLeod’s ‘date’ with Brenda, and…I’m not gonna lie, it’s one of the simultaneously BEST and WORST scenes in any movie you’ll ever watch. This is so cheesy it ought to be radioactive, and I’m going to have to don my special Hazmat suit and go into bullet points for a play-by-play…brace yourselves, folks! Brace yourselves!
So he comes over and stands in the doorway with a smile that says quite loudly ‘I’m going to murder you in a back alley someday.’ She lets him in and then goes and talks to her mirror to see if she can divine an explanation for how weird he is. He finds a gun in her apartment and responds with the proper facial expression:
Then he pours some wine and starts to randomly talk about how great the 1700s were, because that’s not weird at all, and he tells her the date that America’s independence was officially recognized by England, being that he was actually there and all. She acts surprised…weird, considering that she’s a history buff. Did she really not know that?
Then it’s revealed that McLeod knew all along that Brenda was just trying to play him to see if he was guilty or not. She then tells him that she just needs the sword to make an important historical discovery, to which he angrily responds ‘Don’t you ever think about anything but what you want?’
Uh…what? I’m sorry; did he read that line correctly? Why is he saying that like they’ve known each other for years? How is wanting to do something for one’s career “not thinking about what anyone else wants”? Isn’t it actually incredibly important to make such archaeological finds? There are too many questions for such a short scene! Movie, learn how to write dialogue better!
After that it’s flashback time again, as we venture into the darkest day of them all…Sean Connery and McLeod’s wife are sitting around in the house when they’re attacked by Mr. 80s Leather and Spandex, although here he’s just Mr. He-Man Villain instead. Long story short, he kills Sean Connery, rapes McLeod’s wife and McLeod himself is…fishing happily on the greener grass on the other side of the field, because apparently the destroyed castle and lightning striking don’t alert him at all.
|McLeod must have been doing something VERY IMPORTANT to miss this...like filing his nails...okay, there's no friggin' excuse for this.|
What an oblivious dolt.
In the present time, McLeod meets up with his old buddy…this black guy:
|"So...I used to own you. Damn Civil Rights movements."|
"Don't push it."
In flashback land, we see that McLeod once got drunk in the 1700s and fought a snooty British lord, who subsequently, shot his own assistant. Why? I dunno, no reason really. It serves no purpose at all, but hey, it padded out the length of this bloated DVD reissue some more!
Then in the real world again, Mr. 80s Leather and Spandex takes time out of his day to intimidate the hotel manager where he’s staying, but not enough time to show us the whole fight scene with McLeod’s black buddy. Yup, we only get to see the final couple of minutes of it! Joyous. Because, yeah, that whole scene with the 1700s American Revolution thing…THAT was worth keeping in the movie, but the potentially interesting fight scene? Nah, scrap it! It’s not important at all.
Then Mr. 80s Leather and Spandex takes a joyride with Grandma!
|Clearly this was his mission all along - all that other stuff about killing and cutting off heads? Just collateral damage. Rides with old ladies are what he really lived for all along! He's only been a shell of a man until now!|
Can this be any sillier? Also, where the hell are the cops? I guess they have enough manpower to interview the victims of tragedies that already happened, like when they interview the guy that Mr. 80s Leather and Spandex plowed into a wall earlier, but not enough manpower to actually stop a crime. Best. Cops. Ever.
Then in flashback land again, we see that McLeod’s wife played with puppies in the meadows, and that caused her to grow old and be sick in bed, where she makes him promise to light a candle for her on her birthday every year for the rest of his life, or else SHE’LL HAUNT HIM FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. Well, okay, that last part might not be true.
In the present day, McLeod is at a church and Mr. 80s Leather and Spandex arrives with a shaved head, looking even more ridiculous and silly than he did before. He says it’s to disguise himself from the cops, who know what he looks like now, but if that’s the case, why is he being so loud and over the top? He makes faces at the clergy, laughs maniacally and sticks his tongue out like he’s a lost member of KISS. HOW IS THIS HIDING FROM THE COPS? YOU’RE A MORON, MR. 80S LEATHER AND SPANDEX. How did he even survive this long? He’s as subtle and tactical as a goddamn wrecking ball!
|This guy is clearly the next genius of our times.|
So he kidnaps Brenda and ties her to a big billboard while he and McLeod fight to the death. They used up all their money on these special effects of a big tidal wave hitting the building, so the final fight is relegated to standing in front of a warehouse window. Then McLeod finally kills off 80s Leather and Spandex and becomes the only one to be struck by lightning:
|All the glowing Tic Tacs flow into him like a river...|
There’s some narration that tells us he now knows all things, is everywhere, and can read everyone’s minds – so basically, he’s become The Internet! Yes, about 15 years before it became a household item, Christopher Lambert in Highlander was the internet. What a revelation! And that’s the end of the movie. What a trip.
Man, this was cheesy. It’s so cheesy it ought to come with a warning for people who are lactose intolerant! And I love the hell out of it. Highlander, for all its ridiculousness and nonsense, is a pretty awesome movie that makes no sense and has a ton of fun boasting about that fact. It takes itself in stride and struts its overly silly plot like it’s the most epic, serious, groundbreaking thing anyone has ever seen, and for that it is a lot of fun. This is a real product of its environment, born out of the dusty depths of the 80s, and while it is incredibly dated, it’s also remarkably fun to watch and contains a real epic, heartfelt story as well. So go check it out if you haven’t; it’s a great flick.
All images copyright of their original owners.
All images copyright of their original owners.