Release Date: 9/1/00
Fight Choreography: Donnie Yen
Cast: Adrian Paul, Christopher Lambert, Donnie Yen, Bruce Payne
Two words: Donnie Yen. But I'll come back to him later. This final film in the "Highlander" series pits Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) and Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) against a super-powerful and maniacal Immortal named Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne) who is determined to win the prize. Does this sound familiar? Kell has been seeking revenge against Connor for killing his mentor back in the Middle Ages, and has succeeded in making Connor's life a living hell for the past 400 years. When Connor mysteriously disappears, Duncan sets out to find him and crosses paths with Kell as well, setting into motion an overblown showdown between Connor, Duncan, and Kell in a dark and steamy factory location. Sound familiar? Like all of the previous films, "there can be only one," but by this time that statement has lost all of its credibility.
The film has several good things going for it, but it unfortunately falls apart under the weight of poor writing, sloppy editing, and bad acting. The strongest impression I got from the film is that Adrian Paul is a terrible actor (and I know my sister is going to kill me for saying that). Fortunately his martial arts skills help to make up for that fact, and his swordplay is very good. He gets into a fantastic, but completely unnecessary fight with Hong Kong kung fu veteran Donnie Yen, which offers one of the finest fight scenes you'll likely ever see in an American film. Sadly, this is the film's greatest payoff and it happens way too early in the film. And even though he only has a few lines, Donnie still manages to be the best actor in the movie. Even Christopher Lambert, whose performance in the original "Highlander" (1986) was magnificent, gives a tired and lackluster portrayal of Connor MacLeod in this outing. He effectively replaces the Ramirez character from the original film in that we see him training and mentoring Duncan through the ages. He is also really beginning to show his age, and is heavily doubled in his fight scenes (quite possibly by Donnie Yen). But by far, the worst aspect of the film is Bruce Payne's portrayal of Jacob Kell. His shrieking, maniacal, psychotic, and self righteous character is utterly ridiculous and makes him nearly as intolerable and unconvincing as Michael Ironside in "Highlander 2: The Quickening" (1991) and Mario Van Peebles in "Highlander: The Final Dimension" (1995). Jacob Kell is not evil, scary, or threatening - he's just irritating.
The film itself is a mish-mash of confusing flashbacks that don't really help move the story along, and serve more as entertaining side stories to distract us from the lack of a coherent plot. However, the one thing that the film does a respectful job with is weaving the original film in with the continuity of the TV series. Connor's apartment is faithfully recreated from the original, and both Rachel and Heather show up in nostalgic flashbacks. But therein lies the fundamental problem with the entire franchise - the films and the TV show don't and can't match up. Hell, even the continuity with the films doesn't work, so how can anyone expect the TV series to fit into the mix? The entire crux of the franchise is that "there can be only one," so where do all of these other Immortals keep coming from? To hell with continuity!
Overall, the film is better than both "Highlander 2" and "Highlander 3," and wisely doesn't even acknowledge them. However, it still suffers from television mentality, and the only thing that really makes the film stand out is Donnie Yen's amazing fight choreography. Hopefully he'll be able to get involved with more American films in the future.