Final game doesn't play well

Movie: Highlander: Endgame

Our Rating: 2.00

Iron clamps pin Connor MacLeod's (Christopher Lambert) wrists and ankles to the arms and legs of a chair. A bag of fluid conducted by tubing drips into his veins; an iron hood covers his head leaving only his long, matted hair and beard exposed. He looks like a latter-day John the Baptist fastened to the bastard child of a lethal injection machine and an electric chair.

But the chair's function is ironic salvation, not execution. Connor and some of his kind have chosen it as a form of protective custody. Connor MacLeod is an immortal born in 16th century Scotland, the one they call the Highlander. He and those like him are fated to play the "game," drawing their swords and dueling to a death which comes only after a blade swings through their necks. They may not fight on holy ground. The last with his head wins the prize: dominion over mankind -- and mortality. Connor has lost nearly everyone he's ever loved and taken more than 200 heads. Will the ring of chairs on the holy ground of the Sanctuary prove to be his eternal retirement?

Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul, TV's "Highlander"), Connor's clansman and junior by two generations, continues his friend's legacy which includes a centuries-old feud with an immortal priest turned virtual Antichrist, Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne of TV's "Cleopatra"). Duncan wrestles with redemption -- for Connor and from his own estranged wife of nearly 300 years, Kate (Lisa Barbuscia of Almost Heroes). But in the end "... there can only be one."

"Highlander: Endgame" often fails to realize what the first and best film of the series, "Highlander" (1986), was essentially about: two immortal swordsmen -- one good, one evil -- locked in mortal combat. "Endgame," the fourth in the series, includes scenes that are an orgy of clanging and sparking blades, as Kell's renegade immortals break the rules of the duel. Duncan's expert swordsmanship is obscured by first-time director Douglas Aarniokoski's MTV-style rapid editing. Duncan and one of Kell's immortal henchmen, Jin Ke (Donnie Yen of "City of Darkness") even lay down their swords to indulge in some kung fu. Aarniokoski should have learned all the rules before playing the game


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