18 August 2013

#2LR - Highlander, with Rifftrax

Diving right in, as there's not been too much content lately...

Tonight's #2LR review is the '86 cult favorite Highlander, featuring Conor "Le Frenchy" MacLeod and The Kurgan, not to mention Sean Connery as the world's most macholy fey Spaniard.

Spoiler(?) space below:

The movie opens with pro wrestling... I was really curious why the playacting fighting, especially since the first fight between "Frenchy" MacLeod and the odd German/Wall Street suited-type dude was just as playacting.  At one point during the fight, it broke into the floor exercise, with multiple handflips backward by the German dude, who at this point I was mistaking as a member of the East German women's gymnastic team.

Throughout this scene... really, throughout the whole movie, we get treated to an extended flashback of "Frenchy" MacLeod's childhood in Scotcherfrance.  It seems that he was intentionally wading into a battle with another clan, and this is where we first meet The Kurgan, who oddly already knows that MacLeod is a (or will be an) immortal.  Yes, Kurgan's first name is "The".  Anyway, The Kurgan manages to run Frenchy through, but before The Kurgan can remove Frenchy's head, Clan MacLeod comes to his defense and drives off The Kurgan.  (HOW??)

Back in the present, the cops find out about the deheadening, and we end up treated to The Last Grizzled Cop <tm> and the Forensics chick.  Forensics girl finds the German's sword left behind, and marvels that it would be worth "one meeel-yon dollars" (oh, wrong movie).  She happens to be a published expert on the subject of medieval weapons.  Meanwhile, our buddy Frenchy gets caught doing eighty-eight miles an hour out of the parking garage, looking like the guiltiest New Yorker ever.  He doesn't get charged (?!), and leaves the station.

Later, after a bar pickup gone back, MacLeod runs across The Kurgan again, but Forensics gets a front-row seat to the battle.  The battle ends up being a screwjob, with a police helicopter serving as the plot fodder.  Both retreat, but The Kurgan ends up blabbing more of MacLeod's past.

Afterward, MacLeod finds another Immortal, who for some reason isn't fighting him (or vice-versa).  The other Immortal ends up running across The Kurgan, who beheads him without too much muss or fuss, and the police end up learning that MacLeod is at least not the only one removing heads around New York.

The action goes away for a while to try to set up MacLeod's tragic backstory, to give Sean Connery some screentime in a desperate bid for legitimacy, and to try its awfully hardest to make Forensics Chick into the female lead.  Needless to say, all fail miserably, especially Point #3.

Back in the present, The Kurgan runs across MacLeod lighting candles to his old sweetie in a church.  Immortals are forbidden from fighting in the church (why?  Because THE KURGAN says so, dangit.), so The Kurgan resorts to verbal taunting.  Not only of MacLeod but of the whole church, almost saving what little of the film he could.  After uttering his famous line ("I have something to say.  It's better to burn out than to fade away!"), the movie is allowed to plod to its conclusion.

The Kurgan takes Forensics Chick in order to trap MacLeod, and it works.  After another tepid sword battle where the combatants may not Glow but their weapons do, MacLeod manages to separate The Kurgan's head... bummer.  Frenchy's prize(s)?  Forensics chick and the ability to die, along with "being one with all living things".  You can tell that this was back in the day, long before movies were written purely to set up sequels, and the ending just didn't matter.

Spoiler space over

This movie was... well, it is a choice piece of 80s nostalgia, at least.  The fight sequences aren't exactly Hong Kong action, especially with the sword-waving.  It certainly has its unintentional comedy though, which seemed to have saved the movie.  The Kurgan was far more fascinating than I would have thought based on his first appearance... the skull armor, in 15th century Scotcherfrance?  The church scene was absolutely STOLEN by The Kurgan, for the better.  I miss him already, and many other movies could use a character like The Kurgan as an antagonist for extra enjoyment.

Sadly, The Kurgan couldn't save this.  I know that this is a cult favorite, and I am certainly NOT one to speak down to cult favorites (*cough* MST3k, Firefly, Star Trek, etc.) but I did see my answer when I went to the Wikipedia page.  This sentence was waiting:

"Gregory Widen wrote the script to Highlander, which he then titled Shadow Clan, as a class assignment while he was an undergraduate in the screenwriting program at UCLA."

I have two words for that.  "It shows".  The back-and-forth flashbacks were odd, the casting was FAR odder, and while the movie could have had some interesting implications if they really carried through "The Prize" successfully, it was a complete cop-out to receive great power limited by mortality.  NOT an astounding prize, and while they did put together sequels, I'm certainly not watching them.

My apologies if I'm missing anything in this movie, but it heartily deserves its 1.3 .  The Kurgan, you get 1.2 of those points, and the other tenth is for Sean Connery's "Spanish" outfit, a visual feast of red velvet and regret.

The Rifftrax, however, gets the film a solid 2.8.  Mike, Kevin, and Bill did as best they could, and this is one of those movies that at least tried their darndest to build the mythos and plot.  It's just too bad that the script was so hobbled, much less "Frenchy" MacLeod and Forensics Chick, both woefully miscast.  The Rifftrax comes highly recommended for those people who love Highlander, who enjoy laughing at the 80s, or who don't mind sitting through long portions of a movie (aka "the swordfights") without much to recommend itself.

Forthcoming, the promised essays on spoof movies.

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