Film Review

Highlander III: The Sorcerer

After the absolute trip to WTF-ville that was Highlander 2 I kind of felt the franchise had scraped rock bottom and I didn’t think anything could ever be as bad as that. I’m happy to report that Highlander 3: The Sorcerer is not only an improvement (obviously) but an incredible sequel that captures the magic of what made the first such a special film for me and, in my eyes, is on par with it. I know the second film has this big huge production history and that’s why it’s so weird, bad and off topic from the mythology, but for this one they have stripped away all that bullshit and distilled the story back down into what made the first Highlander so great. Christopher Lambert’s immortal Connor McLeod tells us of a new chapter in his ongoing life, wherein a Japanese mystic (Mako) trains him further in the ways of battle so that he can fight another remaining member of his race of beings, the evil Hun-like Kane (Mario Van Peebles). Their battle begins in 500ad or so and rages across time until Connor finds himself in 1990’s New Jersey where Kane follows him. Connor falls for a beautiful archeologist (the lovely Deborah Kara Unger) who is the reincarnation of a girl he knew during the French Revolution and circles a final battle with Kane which, naturally, is staged inside one of those classic ‘smoke and flame’ sheet metal factories that are utilized for showdowns in everything from T2 to Batman 89 and Roger Ebert loved to make fun of so much but try and tell me that in New Jersey there isn’t a large chance that a final fight would realistically end up in one of those buildings, I mean the place is only made of them. Mario Van Peebles is great as Kane, ditching his usual persona for a growling, leering, barbarian type of performance that pays dues to Clancy Brown’s Kurgan without outright aping him. He’s got magic illusion powers, snazzy tattoos, great taste in metal music and is so culturally hopeless in the 90’s that when a hooker gives him a condom he puts it in his mouth in puzzlement, immediately spits it out in distaste and just proceeds to raw-dog her. I’ve talked this film up and you gotta realize that it’s a ramshackle threequel to a cheesy 80’s cult classic that does its best to clean up after a totally irresponsible, ridiculously off the wall sequel and while I was sometimes utterly confused about the timelines or how this chronologically connects to the first, I though it did a pretty damn good job of salvaging tone, style and aesthetics and steering this canon in a serviceable direction. Lambert and Unger are adorable together and have not only a smouldering sex scene that might be among the hottest the 90’s has to offer but actual romantic chemistry to back it up. There is the obligatory helicopter shot of Lambert running and training amidst the gorgeous Scottish scenery that somehow manages to be silly as hell and deeply rousing in the same stroke, here set to a gorgeous Celtic song called Bonny Portmore by Loreena McKennitt. The finale battle between Connor and Kane is like a thunderous fireworks show of lovingly creaky 90’s FX and music that reaches a biblical crescendo and serves to reinforce that even when a franchise has seemingly reached its doldrums, a crowd pleaser like this can come along and shake out the cobwebs. If you go into it cynical over the fact that it’s a Highlander sequel and keep your nose upturned on principle, well you’re only robbing yourself of a fun time, because to me this had everything I wanted from one of these flicks and was a hell of a lot of fun, capped off by a genuinely sweet ending that gives you the option to stop here and have this as the final note of Connor’s story, or continue on in the series for more adventures.

-Nate Hill

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