You and I and all those people out there with a vocal love of film have ruined it for everyone, pimping movies up, falling in love with mediocre films and championing them to near-legendary status. We’ve embraced turkeys, legitimized borderline movies, and elevated modest films in our favorite franchises above and beyond realistic standards. We’ve even embraced the films everyone likes, somehow adding a credibility to them that transcends the mainstream. Sacred cows, little flicks, and everything in between. It’s time we took a look inward and came clean with 25 movies we think need to be taken down a peg or two.
These are our four categories for this list:
These guys have had it too easy. Far too easy. Don’t believe the insane hype.
Good flicks that have gotten too damn big for their britches.
Asshole, you love this film for all the wrong reasons.
WHAT THE FUCK
Something went horribly wrong here and it’s carried over the the fans, who are blinded by shizer.
Your guide: Nick Nunziata
Its Legacy: Sequels out the ass and a television show. The continued existence of Christopher Lambert on screens the world over. Adrian Paul happens. Fantasy conventioneers have one more reason to rush out the house sans deodorant. Decapitations almost pushed out of vogue. Men in skirts proliferate outside the SoHo district. Clancy Brown’s reign begins [a good thing]. Queen continues its 80’s assault on cineplexes with less lovely results than Flash Gordon and God help me… Iron Eagle. A lot of fans who love this film sans irony. Freddie Mercury sees a rough print and finds solace in the arms of a male flight attendant. OOPS.
Why It’s Here: There are amazing ideas at work in Highlander. It’s a great concept, apparently primarily from the mind of Gregory Widen, who would later almost execute a great idea with The Prophecy. Additionally, Russell Mulcahy is a competent helmsman. Add a ponytailed Sean Connery who was in the beginning phase of a career renaissance and the ingredients are there for something wonderful. Then four things happen to screw the whole thing. In no order:
1. Christopher Lambert.
Seriously. If ever there was an actor whose career is inexplicable it’s this man (Subway, he wasn’t horrible in). Whether it be his annoying fake laugh [a dreary “heh heh”], the void of charisma at the center of this and most other films he headlines, his bizarre accent, or the fact he got to ejaculate in and around Diane Lane and we didn’t, the fact remains that a more capable actor in the role of Connor Macleod could have elevated the film enough to perhaps sustain itself as more than an “almost” film that people have somehow flocked to.
2. The 80’s.
If this film had been graced with a more subtle soundtrack, slightly more effort in costuming [Clancy Brown’s excellent portrayal of The Kurgen is almost scuttled by his wardrobe and makeup], and an overall timeless feel the film would hold up better upon repeat viewings. As a child of the 80’s I liked this movie fine, and how could I not? I was 14 when I saw it in theaters. Heads got lopped off, people had magic up in them, and Sean Connery had Reggie Bannister’s haircut! But, unlike The Goonies, which I saw through immediately, this one has really suffered due to the tendrils of age. It reeks of the 80’s in a way that isn’t good. Isn’t good at all.
3. Fight Choreography.
Though it was before the time fight choreography took drastic leaps forward in the states, it’s amazing how much of the swordfight choreography here doesn’t ring true in delivering a really effective sense of action and at the very least a sense of cool. The Kurgen and long windups with the sword would have difficulty beheading Ed Asner, let alone a 200+ year old immortal with tons of experience. I’m not asking for Yuen Woo-ping but maybe a little more sauce to justify the insane adulation and free pass this gets.
4. Freddie Mercury’s pipes and Brian May’s enormous hair and layered guitar licks.
I love this band but God help us all.
I haven’t even mentioned the horrible, atrocious, and fandom death knells that are the subsequent films in the series. This is a great concept hobbled by middling execution, some serious miscasting (aside from Clancy Brown), and hardly the kind of product to have withstood the creative sodomies that followed it with a fan base intact. Overblown?
A Moment of Piss: Any time Sean Connery tries to remind us that his character Ramirez is in fact not Scottish.
These Ain’t Chopped Liver Alternatives: Trancers. Blade and Blade 2. The Matrix. Timecop. Um… not seeing other Highlander films?
Russ Fischer Agrees: As a young man who loved movies, you had to love Highlander. It had swords and Connery and Queen and transitions like the one with the lake and the fishtank. But even as a young pup, I was more likely to get through a double bill of Eraserhead and Dr. Zhivago than this leaden chunk of immortal lore. I proclaimed love based on the criteria mentioned above, but I’m not sure I ever stayed awake for the whole thing. Ever. Excuses were made before the internet and DVD proved us wrong: there’s a better cut out there! Then we saw the ‘better’ cut. For all the bombast and medieval conflict, any scene that didn’t involve immortals meeting or the Kurgan menacing nuns is, as a general rule, dull as dried horse shit. Russell Mulcahy made a metal video out of the combat (well, alright, not so much wrong with that, dodgy staging aside) and let the audience get fully ahead of the film with respect to the all-important ‘immortals in love’ plot points. We all understand immediately that, as an immortal, losing your trousers to a mortal babe is bad news, but Highlander proceeds to show us, at great length, exactly what flashed through our minds immediately as Ramierez warned McLeod away from his first regular girl. In the light of present day, this looks a lot like Snakes on a Plane circa 1986. That is, a movie so certain of future cult status that it doesn’t even bother with the particulars. But those particulars are what could have made the movie truly immortal, instead of mere fodder for third rate cable TV. Highlander is a hit and miss piece of entertainment, a throwback certain to put a smile on some movie lovers’ faces, but it’s much better off as a highlight reel.
Justin Waddell Disagrees: As if Connor MacLeod (of the Clan MacLeod) didn’t already have it rough enough. Wounded in battle, he is ostracized by his fellow villagers when he miraculously (they think demonically) recovers from a fatal wound (sword to the gut c/o Clancy Brown’s Kurgen). Helplessly and immortally, MacLeod watches loved ones grow old and die. Hardened by this, he then manages to keep love at broadsword’s length as he traipses through history trying to avoid detection, decapitation, and a young Jon Polito. You think Nick and Russ’ pointed attacks are even going faze our poor Highlander? I’m not saying he’s not going to shed a mascara-laced tear, but he’s got Mario Van Peebles to fight, Adrian Paul to mentor, and the Fortress series to launch all in his immediate future.
That you can’t kill the Highlander franchise is perfect, isn’t it? And for whatever sins came afterwards, the original is still a really solid flick. Mulcahy, who should be considered immortal his own self for giving us the INSANE giant killer pig movie Razorback, really has a field day spreading his $16 million budget all over the screen. I’ve always loved the way the movie transitions from 80s New York to the mid-1500s. Goofy, sure – but you can tell Mulcahy had a blast working each of those shots out. And the anachronistic sword fight in the rainy parking deck is such a great, energetic way to kick off the silly proceedings.
Connery, of course, is a very welcome addition here. In spite of some of the man’s weirder career choices (Zardoz, Entrapment), it’s still jarring to see him in a flick like this. And even more jarring seeing him in this getup:
But Connery makes the most of his small amount of screen time. I love how at no point in his training of Connor does he sound like he’s NOT talking to a young John Holmes:
- “You must learn to conceal your special gift, and harness your power until the time of the gathering.”
- “Never over-extend your thrust.”
- “Your boner can be seen from Zardoz, my good man!”
Nick’s right about Lambert’s shortcomings as an actor. But he’s carried by just about everything around him. Mulcahy and Widen keep things so busy and manic that his performance doesn’t end up distracting too much from the adventure. Clancy Brown (how has Crayola not dedicated a shade?) more than makes up for Lambert’s sleepy work in this. He’s great as the heavy from the beginning. But, at about the halfway point, he really turns on the gas. His scene at the church, where he antagonizes Connor while making obscene gestures at a few nuns, is one of the movie’s highlights. As is his game of chicken with Connor’s love interest Brenda (a forensics AND ancient sword expert!) unwillingly along for the ride. This movie is nuts, but it’s well-juggled and isn’t above poking fun at itself. The end, which finds Connor telepathically connected to the world and able to reproduce and age, is even kind of cute in its franchise short-sightedness. It may have led to some painful stuff (though, I like what I’ve seen of the TV series), but there’s no reason not to love this hunk o’ mayhem.