My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.
This week focuses on three films with Sean Connery.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
“Does it hold up?” A friend asked me when I told him I’d rewatched the iconic 80s film. The answer is yes and no. HIGHLANDER has survived the test of time on its concept alone. The idea is so good, it transcended a string of bad sequels and remains a hot property to this day. But I’d argue the original film that spawned all of this isn’t really that good.
Beyond the concept, Sean Connery, and some select scenes, it’s a cheesy 80s genre flick. Christopher Lambert is pretty stiff in the lead. The rest of the cast is pretty forgettable other than Clancy Brown whose evil vibe is spoiled by some dated corny one-liners. Even the fight choreography isn’t impressive. It all feels very staged and phony, like I can hear the stunt coordinator calling out the moves one by one.
The creators probably had no way of knowing how good their idea was and the franchise it would lead to but the greatest sin of the original HIGHLANDER is its underwhelming use of a great concept. The “gathering” is built up throughout the film and amounts to only four immortals? It’s totally anti-climactic. With no foresight, the filmmakers blew their load on the first movie, leading straight to the “there can only be one” moment when they could have made this just the first of MacLeod’s challenges. Sure, they were just making one movie at the time but they should have realized the potential of what they had in their hands. Instead, they started the series off with an ending that no sequels could resolve. I’m not a fan of reboots but in this case, I do think someone could give us a better HIGHLANDER.
Watched on Tubi
HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING (1991)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
I had to finally see the notorious sequel, specifically the “Renegade Version” that supposedly shows more of Mulcahy’s original vision.
Having no great admiration for the first film, other than its fantastic concept, I actually found the first third of this follow up to be superior. The action is better-staged, the always alluring Virginia Madsen is an improvement as the female lead, and the backstory about a time (or planet depending on which version you watch) where the immortals come from opens up the story. Sure, it makes no sense that Connery and Lambert knew each other back then and somehow forgot completely during the entire first film but… after an exciting fight sequence and a humorous re-entry of Sir Sean to the story, HIGHLANDER II looks like it might be a step up.
And then the movie gets very, very cheesy. Mulcahy and team mistakenly lean hard into the humor like this is a sci-fi version of CROCODILE DUNDEE. They also focus way too much on the hare-brained ozone layer plot, a complete distraction from the mythology of the series. I hear a lot of complaints that poke at HIGHLANDER II’s origin story but it’s greatest sin is still not exploring the world of the immortals as much as it could. Instead, it gets lost in the bizarre plot that feels lifted from another movie. Yet again, it’s a wasted opportunity to explore a great concept.
Somehow the film even manages to waste Michael Ironside, one of the genre’s best character actors. And that might be unforgivable.
Watched on Tubi
THE AVENGERS (1998)
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
I forgot this movie existed until it popped up on Tubi and I suddenly flashed back to a very different time in a movie theater long ago when I saw the movie poster and wondered if it was really as bad as the critics said it was.
The answer is not quite. THE AVENGERS has all the right pieces (Fiennes, Thurman, Connery, Broadbent) but somehow none of them work together. The script isn’t awful but it just doesn’t play on the screen. It’s full of banter but none of it is witty, even coming out of one of the greatest actors of our time (Ralph). There’s no chemistry between he and Uma, also at the top of her career at the time. Sir Sean is having enough fun to make some scenes worth watching, especially one where he’s dressed in a colorful bear costume.
The movie is bearable until the final act when it descends into non-stop dated visual effects and silly action that feels out of place in what seemed like it was trying to be a clever yet campy spy adventure. It’s not as bad as they said. But it is bad.
Watched on Tubi.