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Most science fiction fans already know the mess that is Highlander II: The Quickening. Russell Mulcahy returned to direct this follow-up to the 1986 original, and a lot of things went wrong: The Argentinian production was a disaster, the film completely ignores the mythology of its predecessor, and the actors treat the movie like an SNL parody sketch. Four years after the film's initial release, Mulcahy pieced together a director's cut known as Highlander 2: Renegade Version. This edition is still pretty bad, but it cleans up the storytelling and continuity editing a bit. Highlander 2: Renegade Version may have been made in 1991, but it is ridiculous '80s sci-fi cheese. Actors Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery and Virginia Madsen embarrass themselves royally, but the film is entertaining if for all the wrong reasons.
What is Highlander 2 about? To say the plot defies explanation is not a compliment. Immortal Scottish Highlander Connor MacLeod (Lambert) lives in a grungy city, and welcomes old age as a sign that his immorality has fallen away without any continuing conflict with evil General Katana (Michael Ironside). Years before, MacLeod helped activate a giant electromagnetic ozone shield to protect Earth from unfiltered sunlight. This saved the planet but left society suffering in constant, humid darkness. Young activist Louise Marcus (Madsen) discovers the ozone layer has been naturally restored, but the corporation responsible for maintaining the shield continues to hide the truth from the public. Marcus looks to a weary MacLeod to expose the truth. General Katana also returns to Earth, restoring the Highlander's powers, and MacLeod's formally dead confidante Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez (Connery) comes back to life. This is Motherf***in' Highlander 2!.
The narrative of Highlander 2 is so convoluted that I have to wonder whether the filmmakers sat in a meeting and listed every '80s sci-fi cliché to include in the film. There's the post-apocalyptic (sort of) setting, Ironside's hilarious overacting, a hover board fight scene between MacLeod and two of Katana's grotesque henchmen, and a distinct lack of purpose for Madsen's character. The continuity between this film and Highlander is laughable, and Mulcahy apparently threw up his hands in defeat when trying to force Highlander 2 into a previously created universe. Why does Connery's chatty sword fighter return from the dead with his head? Because Sean Connery makes everything better, that's why. The film indulges the actor with several fish-out-of-water scenes where Ramírez shops for clothes and marvels at airplane travel. They neither advance nor inhibit the story, so I'm not complaining.
Ironside now says he should have played Katana a little less over-the-top. Ya think? Key to enjoying Highlander 2 is spotting Katana's knack for delivering long sermons before killing anyone, which provides MacLeod several chances to escape from what should have been a quick death. The theatrical cut had an awesome continuity gaffe caused when two swordfights were juxtaposed into one. That's fixed in this director's cut, which also recants the notion that the immortals, like MacLeod, were from outer space. Fortunately, the thinly veiled attacks on corporate America are still as awkwardly delivered.
Highlander 2: Renegade Version is recommended viewing. It's highly entertaining, often comical, and even has a couple of decent action sequences. The film succeeds for reasons other than intended, but stands as a prime example of what not to do when making a sequel. There can be only one. Except in the Highlander franchise where three more films were made even after Highlander II: The Quickening went down in flames. Does Highlander 2 deserve its place among the worst movies of all time? Probably not, but it's no great shakes either.
Olive Films presents the film with a 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that probably looks about as good as it can considering the director pieced together this version several years after the initial release. Highlander 2: Renegade Version is a dark, dingy film, but the Blu-ray does a decent job of cutting through this grime. Shadow detail is generally good, and black crush is kept largely in check. Sharpness varies from scene to scene, as do detail and texture, but some close-up shots are fairly impressive. The film's effects blending causes some shots to look a bit rough, and I noticed some banding on building facades. There may have been a bit of artificial sharpening used, but the transfer is largely free of edge enhancement and print damage.
It's disappointing that this release only includes a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track when the previous Lionsgate release included an impressive 7.1 lossless mix. This mix likely mirrors the theatrical presentation, but it feels constrained. Dialogue is clear and clean, but the effects do not resonate as they would on a surround mix. I noticed that elements struggle to compete with each other in the center channel from time to time, but this mix is mostly sufficient. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are included.
None. You'll want the Lionsgate Blu-ray if you're looking for supplements, as it contains an interesting documentary and several other extras.
Highlander 2: Renegade Version slightly improves on the theatrical cut, but this follow-up to the 1986 cult classic is hardly impressive. Even so, Highlander 2 has gained a following of its own over the years, and the film is an entertaining example of how a bad sequel is made. This Blu-ray from Olive Films is a mixed bag. The transfer is decent, but the Blu-ray includes no extras and only a 2.0 soundtrack mix is offered. Rent It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.