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James Cheung T.,
The lone warrior Colin travels with the wise-cracking ghost Amergan through the ages searching for the immortal despot Marcus Octavius, who killed his lover on the Celtic plains tens of centuries ago. On his quest, he discovers New York is submerged, and one dominant monolith fortress towers over the seas. Colin can save the survivors, but his sword only hungers for the blood of one man. Despite many lifetimes of training, Colin has failed to vanquish Marcus on the great battlefields of history. Can he finish what he started and stop Marcus? Will Colin lead the people to freedom or become consumed by hate? There can be only one. Written by
The American version of the film is shorter than the Japanese version. Producer Galen Walker said in an interview that "about seven or eight" scenes were cut "just for timing, and just for pace of story," and admitted that director Yoshiaki Kawajiri was unhappy with the cuts. An opening exposition text, which is traditional for "Highlander" films, was also added to the American version. See more »
So, here we go again. You must enjoy getting your ass kicked. You do it so well.
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Legendary Japanese Anime' director Yoshiaki Kawajiri (the more-than-capable cult talent behind the explicit blood-letters "Ninja Scroll" and "Wicked City") took on the American "Highlander" series with this latest entry "Highlander: The Search for Vengeance." "The Search for Vengeance" is not a sequel per se, but is instead something closer to a Japanese animation re-imagining of the famous fantasy tale that spawned the immortal tag-line, "There can be only one."
For those not versed in "Highlander" mythology, I'll fill you in: "Highlander" first came to be in the mind of writer Gregory Widen, who in turn pitched his idea to studio bosses about an ages-old battle between a group of immortal swordsmen who can only die by one another's hand, specifically by decapitation. When one of these immortals falls, his killer gains his knowledge and strength (such an event is called a "quickening") and he will continue his pursuit of the mystical "prize" during a time called the "gathering" when these epic sword battles take place. There are several rules all immortals must abide by though: never fight on holy ground and, most importantly, never fall in love with a mortal because, then, you will only know pain and suffering.
Widen's script (co-written with Peter Bellwood and Larry Ferguson) was made into the 1986 cult film "Highlander," which starred Christopher Lambert as the Scottish Highlander Connor MacLeod, who discovers his "gift" after suffering a mortal wound on the battlefield and assumes different identities as he descends through the ages with the knowledge of never knowing death. "Highlander" saw three misshapen sequels, a television series (which starred Adrian Paul), and dozens of comic books before we landed at this new Anime' film from Kawajiri. As a fan of Anime' and the first "Highlander" movie, you could expect a little bit of skepticism about a new film, whether animated or not just because we've become so used to expecting so little from the series.
Like the first "Highlander," "The Search for Vengeance" is equal parts present-story and back-story, with sudden, unexpected transitions between the present and the past. In the year 2187, Scotsman Colin MacLeod (with no stated relationship to Connor) meets his fate on the battlefield and discovers his allegiance to the band of immortals. And, Holy Lazarus, he is branded a witch by his former countrymen and is watched over by the wise-cracking spirit of a Druid priest named Amergan. For 2000 years, MacLeod has been searching through the ages chasing his mortal enemy, the Roman general Marcus Octavius, after Octavius crucified MacLeod's wife Moya in the 16th century and in these encounters, MacLeod is always bloodily outmatched and left crippled but alive and ready to fight another time (despite refusing to uphold Moya's dying wish of no retribution for her killing).
Now in a post-apocalyptic New York City, MacLeod arrives on the scene and joins rebel Dahlia and an underground band of freedom fighters in a desperate battle against Octavius, who is now a full-fledged dictator and rules the city from, dare I say, a futuristic version of Trump Tower with his army of robotic sentinels and scientists working on a top-secret project meant to wipe out the underground resistance once and for all. In these battles, we also get flashbacks to Colin's past, the battles he's fought with Octavius, and his undying love for Moya.
While suffering from some script problems, because of the transitions between past and present, "Highlander: The Search for Vengeance" is still one heck of a film experience. This is perhaps because of an outsider's view, Kawajiri's view. In Kawajiri's hands, the series now seems fresh and full of new life, with many new technical innovations on the story and characters. For 21 years now since 1986, we've had to endure one painful "Highlander" experience after the other. Here, it's clear that Kawajiri has a firm grip on the story and knows everywhere the "Highlander" sequels went wrong (and they went wrong in a lot of places).
Another problem the film suffers from are one-dimensional characters. A skilled swordsman like Colin MacLeod, a man who has literally fallen through time and lives with the burden of knowing he will never die, is transformed into more of a one-note, tortured loner, or even a ronin (a master-less samurai). Perhaps the samurai angle is because of the Japanese influence on the story. The only other character who really stands out in any real way is Dahlia, who has a secret connecting her to Macleod's past and eventually becomes his love interest. Octavius is different from most "Highlander" villains in that he is not crazy and all over the place, but is instead soft-spoken, never raises his voice, and highly sexual with his Japanese mistress (is Clancy Brown, who played the Kurgan in the first "Highlander," the best the movies have to offer?). And lastly, am I the only one who thinks Octavius looks like the villain Gemma from Kawajiri's previous "Ninja Scroll"?
Even with its faults, nudity and extremely bloody violence, this is nonetheless a fitting reinvention of a fantasy story that many thought had long outlived its uniqueness in the genre. For many, "Highlander: The Search for Vengeance" is at last the sequel we've been waiting for.
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