The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

IT CAME FROM THE THRIFT STORE: HIGHLANDER 2: THE QUICKENING (1991) ** ½

I have fond memories of seeing Highlander 2: The Quickening in the theater, mostly because it was one of the first movies I saw at our then-brand-new mall multiplex. Even though me and my dad were seeing something like Highlander 2: The Quickening, it still seemed like an event. Little 13 year old me hadn’t seen the first Highlander movie before watching this, so I had no clue what was going on; which kinda ruined my enjoyment of the film at the time. Only years later did I realize Highlander 2: The Quickening basically says, “F-You!” to the accepted Highlander continuity, so I really shouldn’t have worried.

Over the last few years of writing this blog I was able to finally watch all the other Highlander movies (and even a few episodes of the TV show). I genuinely liked the original film and found the sequels to be mostly worthless (although Part 4 had its moments). Through all the years, I never had an opportunity to revisit The Quickening to reassess it and see how it stacked up to the other flicks. That is, until a couple weeks ago when I saw this staring me in the face for 50 cents at the Thrift Store:



Now, before I go ahead and start my review, I have to say that many, many times over the years the Thrift Store has been a haven for used VHS copies of the Highlander series. (It’s here where I grabbed Part 3 and the TV episodes when I did Lambert-A-Thon.) I can count on two hands the times I’ve seen “The Renegade Version” of Highlander 2 there, but I never bothered to pick it up. For those of you who don’t know about Highlander 2: The Quickening: The Renegade Version (and why would you be reading an online review of Highlander 2: The Quickening if you already didn’t), it’s a director’s cut that totally undermines the integrity of the original theatrical cut. And when I say “the integrity of the original” I mean that it probably actually makes sense.

But what I’ve grown to appreciate about Highlander 2: The Quickening: The Non-Renegaded Edition is that it doesn’t make a lick of sense. It doesn’t treat this as a handicap. It embraces the fact that it doesn’t make sense and runs with it.

What I love about the theatrical version of the film is the callous way that it rewrites the Highlander saga. Christopher Lambert is no longer an immortal from the 15th century. He’s an immortal alien from the Planet Zeist. Also, Sean Connery returns from the original, even though he died in this last one. Some Highlander fans may balk at this, but let me ask you: “What part of IMMORTAL don’t you understand?” Of course he can come back!

If you don’t know the plot of this one, it involves Connor MacLeod (Lambert) creating a UV shield to protect the Earth from the hole in the ozone layer. Since The Quickening happened in the first movie, and he’s the last immortal on Earth, he loses his immortality and now starts aging. But by 2024, the shield he’s created is doing more harm than good. On top of that the corporate asshole behind the project (John C. McGinley) won’t open the shield back up, even though he knows the ozone layer has fixed itself. Meanwhile on Planet Zeist, Katana (Michael Ironside, in his second It Came from the Thrift Store flick) wants to kill Connor, so he sends some immortals to Earth to do the job. Naturally, they screw up, Connor kills them, retains his youthful appearance, and then sets out to reopen the shield.

As you can see, the plot makes SOME sense… if you’re high on cherry cough syrup and blueberry Pop Rocks.

For example, why would Katana send his goons to kill MacLeod if MacLeod is old and probably close to kicking the bucket anyway? And when they fail to kill him, all they succeed in doing is making him immortal (not to mention young) again! Great plan there, genius.

Also, the flick is just an odd duck in that it blatantly rewrites the back story of the first movie. But that’s okay by me because it just makes the film more memorable and goofy. More movies should change their continuity if you ask me. Think of how great it would’ve been if we found out in Return of the King that Gollum was an alien!

Highlander 2: The Quickening is clunky and uneven, and the gratuitous save the world message is annoying, but there were still parts I genuinely enjoyed. I liked the way the un-immortalized and aging MacLeod accepts his mortality and hangs around in diners and shit. And director Russell Mulcahy delivers some truly badass action moments. MacLeod’s swordfight with a pair of porcupine-haired punks on hoverboards is probably the best action sequence in the whole Highlander series. The decapitation by train scene is a winner too.

The film also boasts a terrific set design. Imagine Blade Runner combined with a bit of Batman. Of course, it didn’t have the budget those films had, but it does look pretty sweet.

I’ve got to be honest too. As many unintentional laughs there are in this movie, there are just as many intentional ones. The scene where Connery inexplicably pops up in a production of Hamlet is great as is the funny bit where he gets fitted for a suit while the William Tell Overture plays. Then there’s the airline safety video that looks like something out of a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker movie. My favorite moment though comes after Connery and Lambert get shot up by some bad guys when they wake up on a morgue slab and argue about who got shot the most.

The thing holding me back from giving the flick the full Three Star treatment was the fact that the film really gets sluggish in spots and can be a bit dull whenever it’s not bludgeoning you with hilarity. And even though Highlander 2: The Quickening runs a scant 90 minutes, it feels a lot longer. Having said that, whenever the pacing threatens to get TOO bogged down, Mulcahy says, “BLOW SHIT UP!”

As for “The Renegade Version”, I have no desire to see it. I hate director’s cuts on general principles. I mean if you can’t get it right the first time, don’t even bother. BUT… if I do happen to see it for 50 cents at the Thrift Store, I’ll be sure to pick it up and review it to satisfy the completist in me. Although I do find it ironic that the mantra of the Highlander series is “There can be only one” but there are two different versions of just about every sequel.

(Note: Some say that “The Quickening” is the best sequel subtitle of all time. I respectfully disagree with that statement. For my money, the best sequel subtitle would have to go to another sequel from ’91; FX 2: The Deadly Art of Illusion.)

Next week’s Thrift Store flick: The Killer Kid flick Mikey, starring Family Ties’ Brian Bonsall.

Tags: .it came from the thrift store, action, h, highlander series, lambert, sci-fi, sequel
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