Interstar

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991, Russell Mulcahy)

Highlander II: The Quickening has had a reputation as a sequel disaster since its release. Outside of “Starlog” write-ups, did anyone ever pretend to be excited about this film? But since its initial release (and multiple home video re-releases with different editing), The Quickening has actually gotten to be a wonderful time capsule of its era and situation.

The film is desperate. It goes all out. People like hoverboards from Back to the Future Part II, let’s have hoverboards. The ladies liked stars Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery with long hair in the first one, let’s do all long hair in the second one. Highlander 2 ought to be subtitled Big Hair and Big Swords because it’s desperate enough to give villain Michael Ironside long hair, presumably to make him… sexy?

Now. Ironside. Real quick. He ought to look embarrassed and he doesn’t. He gets through. John C. McGinley not so much, but Ironside gets through. He’s the lamest early nineties movie villain–a mix of the savage punk villain from the previous Highlander and Jack Nicholson’s Joker from Batman–but Ironside does get through it.

Sean Connery’s actually okay enough. Lambert’s bad but how could anyone be good. He’s so bad he’s better under the old age make-up at the beginning than when he’s young again.

Virginia Madsen is not good as the love interest. It’s a terrible part, but she’s still not good. Oh, look, a metaphor for the entire film. It’s terrible for multiple reasons, but it could never be good. Even when Highlander 2 does something right for a little while, it gets screwed up. Director Mulcahy has a handful of decent concepts, but they’re either too short or ultimately fail. And when it seems like a perfect Mulcahy moment–many of the sets are enormous so Mulcahy can do his swinging crane shots–he never takes advantage. It’s puzzling and disconcerting.

Weird score from Stewart Copeland, weirder pop soundtrack. Both are bad, but interesting in their weirdness. Like everything else, they’re desperate to appear hip. Peter Bellwood’s lousy script apes corporations as bad guys from Robocop and Total Recall, bringing along poor Ironside from that latter as well. Highlander 2 is a sequel to a cable and home video hit desperately trying to be a cable and home video hit.

I suppose it’s oddly appropriate a film about immortality is also such a perfect time capsule of a popular filmmaking era. It’s such a perfect example of it, I’m only moderately embarrassed to have written over 400 words about it right now.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Russell Mulcahy; screenplay by Peter Bellwood, based on a story by Brian Clemens and William N. Panzer and characters created by Gregory Widen; director of photography, Phil Meheux; edited by Hubert C. de la Bouillerie and Anthony Redman; music by Stewart Copeland; production designer, Roger Hall; produced by Jean-Luc Defait, Ziad El Khoury, Peter S. Davis and Panzer; released by Interstar.

Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Sean Connery (Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez), Virginia Madsen (Louise Marcus), Michael Ironside (General Katana), Allan Rich (Allan Neyman), John C. McGinley (David Blake) and Ed Trucco (Jimmy).


Highlander II: The Quickening (1991, Russell Mulcahy), the international version

When subjecting myself to Highlander II, I wanted to find the worst version possible. Over the years, the director and then the producers have returned to the film and tried to edit the footage into something more palatable. Of course, these attempts are not just hampered by the use of existing footage (it’s not like there’s some great version lost out there), but also by the fact the film’s one of the worst acted motion pictures in the medium (at least by professional actors).

So the version I watched has all the alien planet references, which contradict the first movie, among other assaults on the intellect. Given I don’t like the first one–it’s far better than this one though–I don’t really care about the continuity. I care more about things like Christopher Lambert essentially forcing himself on Virginia Madsen. One of his new magical powers is Love Potion #9… or she just got Stockholm Syndrome super fast.

Madsen might give the best performance. Either her or Sean Connery. Both are pretty bad by regular standards, but when they’re giving these performances amid Lambert, Michael Ironside (who might give a worse performance than Lambert, which is extraordinary) and John C. McGinley (did he ever work again after this one?)….

I spent about half the movie wondering what a well-budgeted, well-scripted Russell Mulcahy effort would be like–then remembered the Shadow (which is superb). Even though he’s shooting idiotic material and bad performances, Mulcahy’s talent is clearly visible.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Russell Mulcahy; screenplay by Peter Bellwood, based on a story by Brian Clemens and William N. Panzer and characters created by Gregory Widen; director of photography, Phil Meheux; edited by Hubert C. de la Bouillerie and Anthony Redman; music by Stewart Copeland; production designer, Roger Hall; produced by Jean-Luc Defait, Ziad El Khoury, Peter S. Davis and Panzer; released by Interstar.

Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Sean Connery (Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez), Virginia Madsen (Louise Marcus), Michael Ironside (General Katana), Allan Rich (Allan Neyman), John C. McGinley (David Blake) and Ed Trucco (Jimmy).


Split Second (1992, Tony Maylam)

Rutger Hauer plays a rogue cop who needs big guns, smokes cigars, and has his Zippo lighter fixed for a three-inch flame. Amusingly, the character being some kind of poster child for overcompensation isn’t recognized, neither by Hauer or by the filmmakers. Hauer’s performance is something extraordinary. I mean, sure, the lines are awful, but Hauer’s gives an atrocious performance even when he isn’t talking. He can’t even manage to grimace convincingly.

What’s interesting about Split Second is how it got funding. It didn’t get much–it shot on location in London (future London has a raised sea level thanks to global warming, but it only comes up in the deceivingly competent opening credits and the occasional partially flooded streets), but almost everything is interiors. There’s also, with the exception of the British cast, no British flavor to the setting. Hauer isn’t supposed to be British, which begs the question of why he’s there (little of this future setting is explained–apparently, the U.S., through the U.N., runs the planet). Poor Pete Postlethwaite has a small, bad role. He’s not bad, but the character’s idiotic. Alun Armstrong’s better than the material–though his is a little less embarrassing than Postlethwaite’s–but he’s in bad stuff all the time (maybe not this bad), so he’s not as surprising to see. As Hauer’s sidekick, Alastair Duncan is only slightly better than Hauer.

Movies this bad must still be made, but I don’t think it’s with the same legitimacy. I mean, until I started watching it, I had no idea how bad Split Second was going to turn out (the hack of a writer has gone on to other things, after all). It’s a pre-direct to video movie, which does mean something. I’m just not sure whatever it means has anything to do with the possible quality of a film.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Tony Maylam; written by Gary Scott Thompson; director of photography, Clive Tickner; edited by Dan Rae; music by Francis Haines and Stephen W. Parsons; production designer, Chris Edwards; produced by Laura Gregory; released by Interstar.

Starring Rutger Hauer (Harley Stone), Kim Cattrall (Michelle), Alastair Duncan (Dick Durkin), Michael J. Pollard (The Rat Catcher), Alun Armstrong (Thrasher), Pete Postlethwaite (Paulsen), Ian Dury (Jay Jay), Roberta Eaton (Robin), Tony Steedman (O’Donnell) and Steven Hartley (Foster).


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