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Highlander 2 (July 31/04)

It doesn't seem to matter what the filmmakers do to try and improve Highlander 2; the movie remains a muddled and largely incoherent sequel. The film was originally released to theaters in an 89-minute version, which went over terribly among audiences (fans of the original included). A "renegade" edition was released on video several years later, which restored 19-minutes and was - admittedly - an improvement. Now, Lions Gate Home Entertainment presents Highlander 2 with improved special effects and sound design - though it's impossible not to wonder if the movie is even worth all the effort (answer: not really).

Set in the year 2025, the film follows Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) as he battles a fellow Highlander (played with over-the-top glee by Michael Ironside) bent on world domination. Also along for the ride is returning character Ramirez (Sean Connery) and a beautiful eco-terrorist named Louise (Virginia Madsen). The heart of the story involves a shield that covers the entire planet, erected after the ozone layer proved ineffectual in protecting citizens from the sun's harsh rays.

It's a storyline that's mostly confusing and convoluted, though as the film progresses, things do start to make sense (sort of). Presumably the "renegade" cut - which is included on this disc, not the theatrical version - clears up a lot of the baffling elements in Peter Bellwood's screenplay. But on the flipside, the longer running time means there are several superfluous sequences - resulting in a movie that is slightly more coherent, but also fairly dull in spots.

Director Russell Mulcahy (who also helmed the first Highlander) infuses the film with a palpable sense of style, though his lack of restraint eventually becomes somewhat overwhelming. Along with cinematographer Phil Meheux, Mulcahy transforms even the simplest sequence into a laser light show of swooping camera moves and kinetic editing. While such antics keep things interesting, they also make the story that much more difficult to follow.

Highlander 2's representation of the future isn't all that convincing (why are trains rolling through crowded streets?), and marks yet another riff on the landscape created by Blade Runner (although the film must be commended for including widescreen televisions). Lambert gives a typically mediocre performance, while Connery seems to be enjoying himself in what essentially amounts to a cameo appearance.

It's hard to imagine Highlander 2 appealing to non-fans of the franchise, as the film barely captures the sense of fun that was so prevalent in the original. With its complicated storyline and dreary visuals, it occasionally feels more perfunctory than anything else - though, to be fair, it's nowhere near as bad as it's been made out to be over the years.

out of

About the DVD: Well, you've got to give Lions Gate Home Entertainment credit - they've spared no expense in bringing this notorious title to DVD. This two disc set includes a whole host of bonus features, along with a virtually flawless remastered transfer and enhanced soundtrack. The first disc includes a branching option that allows the viewer to watch certain behind-the-scenes clips (all of which are short but interesting). But the majority of the supplemental features are housed on the second disc, starting with around 50-minutes worth of featurettes that essentially tell the tale of the troubled production. The disc also includes four more featurettes that document the more technical aspects of the film, six deleted scenes, a 10-minute promo reel that was shown at Cannes, and a theatrical trailer.