The Austin Chronicle

Highlander II: The Quickening

Rated R, 88 min. Directed by Russell Mulcahy. Starring Christopher Lambert, Virginia Madsen, Michael Ironside, Sean Connery.

REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Nov. 8, 1991

The original Highlander (1986) is one of those films that has haunted my late night, addictive channel flipping over the years. I thought I had seen most of the film, little snippets random in time and space connected only by memory. There was a charm to this tale of immortal warriors, who could only be killed by being beheaded, fighting a duel down through the centuries, though its weaknesses (narrative and acting) were astonishing. Mulcahy, who made his name with music videos was clearly limited by his genre. The film was both a critical disaster and a legendary flop. But then it began to build a cult following through many of the same cable showings I caught and video rentals. Still the news that not only was Highlander II being released but Highlander III is in production, was a little shocking. Was the cult following large enough to merit a sequel or maybe there's an overseas market that just ate the first one up? Mulcahy again presents us with a dazzler, the film flows like a modern comic book, exploding off the screen with dark tones, brilliant color usage and eccentric detail. Only it doesn't make any sense. There is no plot, no stories, no character. Or, I should say, there is too much plot, narrative detail connected to narrative detail without thought or affection. Instead this is cinematic narrative incompetence as art. It's the future and the ozone layer is rapidly evaporating, with only minutes to spare, The Highlander (Lambert) throws the switch on his super machine which covers the earth with an energy shield. Years pass and the shield has smudged over. This means that humans are now cut off from the sun, making them listless with no hope for the future, the corporation that owns it is now the most powerful and repressive on earth and it makes for some spectacular color effects. Coincidentally, just at this time, on the Planet Zeist, where the Highlander was originally exiled from, his old enemy decides to kill him. So warriors are sent through time and space to get him. And that's just the beginning. The acting is terrible,with Connery, at his lowest common denominator, stealing the show. For those of you who worry that MTV video art will destroy cinema, the ineptitudes of this film vividly detail the radical difference in forms. It sucks. But it would have made a great comic book.

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