Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Doug Aarniokoski|
William N. Panzer
|Music by||Nick Glennie-Smith
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
101 minutes (Producer's cut)
|Box office||$15.8 million|
Highlander: Endgame is an American fantasy film originally released on September 1, 2000. It is the fourth theatrical release in the Highlander film series, and it serves as a continuation of both the Highlander films and the Highlander television series. The film stars Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod, the lead character of the series, and Christopher Lambert as Connor MacLeod, the lead character of the films.
In A.D. 1555, Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) returns to his former home in Glenfinnan, Scotland, to save his mother from his former friend and village priest Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne). Kell executes Connor's mother for witchcraft. Connor kills both Kell and Kell's adopted father, Father Rainey, and sets Glenfinnan ablaze. Jacob Kell is reborn as an Immortal, and vows vengeance against Connor for Rainey's death. He spends the next four centuries killing people Connor cares about. Kell amasses great power by ignoring the rules of The Game; he recruits several lesser Immortals as disciples, who overpower other Immortals so Kell can take their heads. By the turn of the century, Kell has 661 Immortal kills (compared to 262 for Connor MacLeod, and 174 for Duncan MacLeod).
Ten years before the present-day events of the film, Kell orchestrates the death of Connor's adopted daughter Rachel Ellenstein. Heartbroken, Connor departs for The Sanctuary, where Immortals are under surveillance by a subgroup of Watchers to prevent The Prize from being won.
A decade later, Kell and his disciples attack the Sanctuary, and Connor is believed to have been beheaded along with the other Immortals there. Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul), compelled by a vision he has of the slaughter, begins to investigate. Meanwhile, Mathew Hale, the watcher supervising the sanctuary, looks on at the carnage, and decides that they will now turn to "volunteers" to refill their test-subjects' numbers. Duncan goes to see Methos, who tells him about the Sanctuary. Duncan cannot believe that Connor would even go to such a place. He later leaves London for New York, where he goes to Connor's loft, which was destroyed in the explosion that killed Rachel. Sensing an Immortal, he turns to see Kate (Lisa Barbuscia), his wife from 200 years before. Then Kell's posse arrives, and fights Duncan (disregarding the rule of one-on-one combat). The fighting stops when Kell arrives, but Carlos shoots Duncan, who falls on a spike, killing him. Kell is furious with Carlos, and beheads him: as the quickening begins, a van drives up to where Duncan fell, and takes him away.
Later on, Duncan wakes up, only to realize that he has been taken by Watchers who want to keep him in the Sanctuary so that he does not win the Prize. He is later saved with the help of Methos and Joe. He discovers Connor was spared by Kell, so as to allow the evil Immortal to make Connor's life even more miserable. Kell wants to kill Duncan in order to torture Connor, and given the number of Quickenings he has received, this seems quite likely to occur. Additionally, Connor is too guilt-ridden by the deaths of all his loved ones to stand up to Kell by himself. Duncan later confronts Kate (now using the alias "Faith") at a fashion shoot, and asks her why she is with Kell. She tells him how much she hates the fact that she will never have children or grow old and die, and believes that Kell understands her pain. Duncan must earn her forgiveness, or face her as an embittered part of Kell's faction. Later on in his hotel room, Kate arrives after having a chat with Kell, and the two make love. Though it would appear that she has forgiven him, it is not the case, and she tells Duncan that she will never forgive him; Duncan tells her that it is never too late for redemption, and that he will wait, even if it takes years or centuries.
Ultimately, Kell executes his group in a mock Last Supper to gain their powers, including possibly Faith, and Connor convinces Duncan that Connor must allow himself to be beheaded in order for Duncan to have enough power to rival Kell. After an emotional good-bye, Duncan follows Connor's advice, and beheads his beloved clansman.
Soon after, Duncan and Kell engage in a final battle. At first, Kell easily overpowers Duncan, even when MacLeod attempts a supposedly-unbeatable sword move that Connor taught him. Just before Duncan's impending death at the hands of Kell, Connor's spirit helps give Duncan the strength to continue. Duncan then kills Kell by jumping over him and decapitating him as he turns around. Duncan absorbs all of Kell's massive power. He then goes to Glen Coe, Scotland to bury Connor next to Connor's first wife Heather.
Early drafts of the screenplay differed greatly from the final cut in several respects. The Kate character was originally named "Alexis"; most of the flashback scenes occurred in Shanghai instead of Ireland; Paris was the original location of Methos's home rather than London; Duncan MacLeod lived on his Parisian barge during the modern-day sequences; and Hugh Fitzcairn appeared during the Shanghai flashbacks. The titles of the various drafts included Highlander IV: The Immortals, Highlander: The Search for Connor, and Highlander: World Without End. Gregory Widen, writer of the original Highlander, worked on the early drafts and was in talks to direct the film. Widen had previously directed the film The Prophecy, which he also wrote. Portions of Widen's writing were used for Endgame, though he received only a "Characters Created By" credit.
The film features several shots from the original Highlander. The first is a computer-altered and enhanced shot of Glenfinnan, which was originally the shot of Connor walking away from his village. The second is a shot of the Silvercup sign, pulled from the scene of the Kurgan taking Brenda to the building. And in the rooftop Quickening, two shots of Connor and Heather together are taken from the first film. Castle Stalker is seen briefly in the film during Connor's flashback scene. This building was also seen in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Donnie Yen served as the film's martial arts choreographer and also played the role of Jin Ke, who was based on a real historical figure: Jing Ke, renowned for his failed assassination of the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang. Hip-Hop producer Damon Dash makes an appearance as one of Jacob Kell's Immortal minions. Professional wrestler Adam Copeland, known as "Edge" in the World Wrestling Entertainment, makes a cameo appearance as Lachlan. A reference is made to Copeland's wrestling persona when Duncan says to Lachlan, "Looks like you've lost your edge, lad."
The movie was meant to act as a bridge between the Highlander television series and the spin-off series Highlander:The Raven that was continuing on TV back in 1999. But these plans started to go awry when "Raven" was cancelled due to low ratings and the change in syndication as well as production delays started occurring due to cast availability problems. Dimension Films, which took on the project as a way of invigorating the franchise, realized that its plans for the film were not going to meet expectations and scaled back on its release.
Filming began on October 22, 1999 and ended on March 7, 2000. Much of the bulk of filming happened in Romania which was opposed by the producers.
Endgame's theatrical distributor, Dimension Films, demanded that cuts be made to the film to give it a faster pace. The deleted footage contained exposition necessary to understanding the Highlander universe, resulting in a theatrical cut that was criticized for being incomprehensible to audiences unfamiliar with the franchise. An extended cut with restored footage was later released on DVD. (See alternate versions below.)
In the earliest scripts of Highlander Endgame, the main antagonist was first introduced as an unnamed, powerful Immortal stalking Connor and killing his close friends to fulfil an unknown agenda. Later, the character's name was revealed to be 'Jacob Kase'. This was the name used throughout the original script. However, this was modified from Kase to Kell after comments that it sounded too phonetically similar to the previous Highlander III villain Kane. The resulting name (although not Scottish in origin) was used in the filming of the movie. Kell is portrayed initially as a crusader out to avenge the death of his mentor at Connor's hands. The struggle between Kell and Connor was to mirror to a certain extent the relationship between Kate and Duncan, respectively as well as explore the possibility of an evil antagonist with close ties to the clan MacLeod. Despite the changes between the script and movie, the actual Jacob Kell retained much of his personality—his metamorphosis from a reluctant enforcer of justice to a sadistic mad-dog killer played an important part in the film.
Jacob Kell's gang
Portrayed by Donnie Yen
Jing Ke was a professional soldier serving the Chinese King (and later, Emperor) Qin Shi Huang and was charged to protect the workers who built the Great Wall of China from nomad attacks. A highly skilled unarmed fighter, Jin Ke's preferred weapon is a spear. Dissatisfied with the emperor and his bloody actions, he took part in a conspiracy to assassinate him. The conspiracy was discovered and all its members were killed, except Jin, who awakened as an Immortal. He thought this new life would enable him to amend his faults, so he decided to live honorably, defending the right causes and fighting evil. In 19th century China, he met Jacob Kell, who convinced him that honor existed only in victory. Swayed by Kell's words, Jin Ke chose to become the first of his followers. He was used as a backup plan when the remaining members of the gang failed to accomplish their mission. This was seen when the gang tried to kill Duncan MacLeod. After Winston, Cracker Bob, Carlos and Manny were unable to kill him, they stepped aside so that Ke could fight Duncan. However, Duncan was as strong as Ke and their fight was interrupted by Kell. He was the first member to be killed in the gang’s “last supper," and the only one to raise a sword against his former leader. Despite this, Jacob Kell killed him effortlessly. Jin Ke appears to be a highly fictionalized version of Jing Ke, a wandering swordsman who failed to assassinate Qin Shi Huang.
Portrayed by Ian Paul Cassidy
"Cracker" Bob was owner of an explosive and eccentric personality. It is unknown where he originally came from or what his real name was. He met Immortal Jacob Kell in Georgia in 1926. Traveling through the South, Kell recognized Bob as a pre-Immortal. When Bob proposed to lead him to his next destination, Kell accepted, curious to see what the latter was preparing for him. At the city's exit, Bob tried to rob him, but Kell beat him easily. Amused, Kell decided to keep him close. Bob then became the second member of his group after Jin Ke. His weapon of choice became a heavy wooden club covered in spikes and he started to wear eccentric clothes (probably made by Faith, who was a fashion designer). He was the second member executed by Kell in the gang's "final supper". Before being beheaded, Bob could do nothing but smile at Kell, realising he and the other members had been tricked.
Portrayed by Oris Erhuero
Winston was born in Jamaica in 1834, and was raised by former slave parents. In 1865, he was witness to the brutal repression used by English troops to stop the Jamaican rebellion. He would see his parents die before his eyes. Insane with rage, he attacked the soldier responsible for their death and “died” from a bayonet through the heart. After becoming Immortal, he turned into a frightening adversary for the colonists. After the island’s independence, he became a mercenary. In North Africa, during World War II, Winston met and joined Jacob Kell’s gang. He later became the leader of a network of marijuana smugglers in New York, under Kell's command. In 1972, he discovered among the network's members an Immortal named Carlos. Carlos would also join the gang. Winston led the members on their missions. When they failed it was up to Jing Ke to finish the job, as seen in the attack on Duncan MacLeod, when Jing Ke had to intervene. He was the third member to be executed by Kell in their "last supper".
Portrayed by Damon Dash
Carlos was born a slave in South Carolina in 1789. He became Immortal after being lynched by a local vigilante group at the time of a slave rebellion. Carlos would then kill several slave owners and white racists. He would also attack Ku Klux Klan members. If by chance, he was “killed” doing the misdeeds, it would give him a certain pleasure to reappear in front of his killers and terrify them before killing them. He wasn't a big lover of swords preferring to use guns against other Immortals. In 1972, in New York, he was part of a marijuana smuggling network, led by Immortal Winston. This would lead him to Jacob Kell, with whom Winston was allied. The gang served his purpose of not having to fight with swords and within the gang he was safe from other Immortals. During the gang's attack against Duncan MacLeod, Carlos decided to shoot MacLeod. The impact hurled him through a nearby window, ultimately enabling him to escape from certain death. Displeased by the fact of having disobeyed his orders by using a gun, Kell taunted Carlos to attack him. Carlos attacked him and was beheaded within seconds.
Portrayed by Vernon Rieta
Manny was a young Hawaiian who in 1965 joined the United States Army during the Vietnam War. The young Private was terrified of being killed, unaware of the fact that he was a pre-Immortal. His commander, who was an Immortal, sensed that Manny was a pre-Immortal and tried to reassure him by saying that the bullets couldn’t do anything to him. But Manny didn’t believe him and was certain that his fate was to die in Vietnam. That is until, one day, his regiment was attacked by the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong artillery decimated all the troops. Amazed, Manny reawakened as an Immortal and was able to survive. Unfortunately, his commander, despite his immortality, was killed by the heavy artillery. He would later join Kell's gang, coming under Kell's charisma. He was a low-profile member within the gang, contrasting with his other team members Cracker Bob, Winston, and Carlos. He, too, was executed by Kell at their "last supper".
At the beginning of the movie, it is shown that Jacob Kell had killed 661 Immortals. After killing his five henchmen, this number goes up to 666.
The DVD release features a 101-minute "producers' cut" which features improved visual effects, sound mixing, and color-timing, and restores numerous scenes of exposition intended to make the story more easily understandable for audiences unfamiliar with the Highlander franchise. The "producers' cut" includes the "Kate lives" ending and removes the line of dialogue in which Methos refers to the Sanctuary as holy ground, which was criticized by fans.
The Region 1 (United States and Canada) DVD includes, as a bonus feature, a rough workprint cut of the film. The visual quality of the rough cut is rather poor, with unfinished special effects and a timecode visible at all times, and alternating between widescreen and full-screen. This cut features a subplot involving Connor giving a Christmas tree to an orphanage every Christmas, an activity picked up by Duncan after Connor's death. Kate does not appear in this version of the film at its conclusion, unlike the producers' cut included on the DVD. The rough cut also notably features an extended version of the "Last Supper" scene in which Jin Ke plunges his sword into a wall and beheads himself after realizing that he cannot beat Kell, thereby denying Kell the opportunity to kill him. In the other versions of the film, this scene was edited to make it appear that Kell beheads Jin Ke (off-screen) along with the rest of the group.
The producers of the film disagreed with Dimension Films over the running length and story structure of the film. They were unsatisfied with the theatrical cut, and upon its DVD release, they re-edited the film and added twelve minutes of new footage, which included:
- A new opening sequence, in which we see Duncan and Connor roaming the streets of New York and Duncan buying a hot dog. Connor tells Duncan that he has an errand to run, and leaves a concerned Duncan behind after telling him to "watch his back." The scene goes to Rachel walking towards the antiques store.
- The shots of the photographs with Rachel and Connor in them are not in the DVD cut. Instead we see Rachel enter the store, go to the loft and find a TV playing a video of herself and Connor at various points of her life. The phone rings and when she answers, the store explodes just as Connor walks up to it.
- The DVD cut has Duncan walking past a payphone on his way to Methos. He answers the phone and a woman (later revealed as Faith) tells him, "Whatever you fear about Connor MacLeod, fear the worst." She says that she is a friend and hangs up. As Duncan walks on, we see a watcher named Matthew spying on Duncan from a cafe saying into his cellphone, "He's on the move."
- During the scene where Duncan is at Connor's destroyed loft, the posse enter and Winston says, "It's time to show our Immortal brother a thing or two." Cracker Bob has more of an entrance. We see him crash in on his motorcycle swings his bat and says, "Someone order a club sandwich?" Duncan mocks his outfit and Bob complains to Faith.
- A Flashback to Kate and Duncan's wedding is re-edited. We see Duncan sitting at the table with Kate, and one of their friends gets drunk and collapses while urging the two to kiss. They do, then we see Duncan, Kate and their wedding guest dancing. From there, we see Connor walking through the door and embracing Duncan.
- After Duncan and Faith separate at the studio (the fashion show scene), we see them roaming the streets. Faith goes to Kell's temple, then her apartment. Inside, we see Kell waiting for her. The dialogue makes it clear that they have a sexual relationship and Kell suspects that she may turn over to Duncan's side. We go from this scene to Faith walking about the streets of New York and then entering Duncan's hotel room where they have an intimate moment.
- The fight scene between Duncan and Kell is extended.
- We see a scene where Duncan is bandaging a leg wound and taking off his coat. The watcher Matthew is pointing a rifle at him. "Just watching," someone says. Matthew turns and Joe is standing behind him. Matthew raises his rifle at Joe, but Joe shoots him with a revolver. Matthew dies.
- Duncan's face morphing into Connor's, and back, a few times is reduced in their visibility and intensity.
Among other changes was the edited blurring of a large JVC billboard that was prominently featured during Connor's death scene in the theatrical cut.
The trailers for the film feature several shots showing Kell using mystical abilities (such as stopping a sword in midair with some sort of force field, cloning himself and holding an orb with Connor's screaming head inside of it). Also, Connor and Duncan are shown emerging from some sort of portal. None of this footage made it into any released version of the film, and the footage is only seen in the trailer. No explanation for the nature of these scenes has ever been willingly released by the producers or film studio, although it has since been revealed that these shots were never intended for inclusion in any finished cut of the movie — they were shot exclusively for its trailer, instead. No mention of Kell's magical abilities exists in the online version of an early screenplay.
Critical reaction to Highlander: Endgame has been negative. It holds an 11% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 53 reviews, higher than Highlander 2: The Quickening (0%) and Highlander: The Final Dimension (5%), and a score of 21 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 16 reviews.
Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times gave Endgame a mildly positive review, saying: "It's nice to see mindless violence back in a B picture, where it belongs, and the swordplay is impressive. When [the movie] sticks to the hand-to-hand battles and doesn't try to offer deeper thoughts on the life of an immortal, it works on its own terms." IGN gave Endgame a score of 8 out of 10, saying that "fans will be pleased," adding: "Endgame proves to be both true to the spirit of the first film and the television series, [it has] a solid story to tell, [and it] features the best fight sequences of the series."
Andrew O'Hehir of Salon.com said, "Personally, I enjoyed it about the way I enjoyed the Mortal Kombat movies, meaning that its genuine fun and its unintentionally ridiculous moments are roughly in balance." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly remarked: "[Fans] will be thrilled that Connor MacLeod and his fellow clansman Duncan MacLeod engage in a vein-popping showdown to see which immortal will bump off the other, thereby achieving a quickening of multiorgasmic proportions. Those who aren't in the cult of this popular genre fantasy not only won't understand what the previous sentence is about, but may also wonder what's so great about perpetual life if it entails shlepping from one badly lit, cheesily art-directed, peat bog-colored century to another, spouting hollow dialogue."
Travis Eddings of Film Threat gave the film one half star out of five, saying: "After viewing Highlander: Endgame, it's obvious that Aarniokoski has no idea how to make a film. ... The only reason why this film earns one-half of a star instead of zero is due to some unintended laughs. It's funny to see what passes as acting in this movie." James Brundage of FilmCritic.com gave the film one and half stars out of five, saying: "Highlander: Endgame possesses all of the elements of a straight-to-video action movie. Cheap special effects that look cool, weak characters that still pull heartstrings, and a bunch of actors no one really knows unless you have seen this or that obscure flick. And, taking that view, one wonders why the hell I even had to watch Highlander: Endgame in theatres."
Carlo Cavagna of About Film called the film "a disaster," adding: "The plot and the characters' motivations are nonsense. Lambert's character has nowhere to go, and his once-magnetic glower is tired and worn. Several opportunities for spectacular action are squandered because the movie's villain has a tendency to execute summarily his own henchmen. Paul's modicum of charisma, director Douglas Aarniokoski's broad panoramas that recall the original Highlander, and Lambert's amusing skirmishes with a Scottish accent are not enough to provide any redeeming value.
The film was not a financial success, earning only US$15 million against its $25 million production budget. At the North American box office, the film opened at #5, grossing $6,223,330 in its opening weekend. It went on to gross $12,811,858 domestically and gather $3,031,750 from international markets for a worldwide total of $15,843,608.
- "Highlander: Endgame (2000)". Box Office Mojo. 2002-08-28. Retrieved 2011-06-20.
- Scotland: the Movie Location Guide — ''Highlander: Endgame'' — Castle Stalker. Scotlandthemovie.com. Retrieved on 2011-06-20.
- "For the viewer not familiar with the peculiar universe of Highlander, the movie is virtually incomprehensible." — Jesse Shanks, Highlander: Endgame review, Digitally Obsessed
- "...non- fans will be wondering what the heck is going on." — Highlander: Endgame review, FilmCan
- Highlander: Endgame review, Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
- Highlander: Endgame / Audio Commentary by Peter Davis (Producer), William Panzer (Producer), Robert A. Ferretti (Editor), and H. Daniel Gross (Co-Executive Producer / Dimension Home Video (2007) / Region 1 DVD
- Highlander: Endgame reviews, Rotten Tomatoes
- Highlander: Endgame reviews, Metacritic
- Highlander: Endgame Review, Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times, September 2, 2000
- Highlander: Endgame Review, IGN, February 22, 2001
- Highlander: Endgame Review, Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com, Jan 1, 2000
- Highlander: Endgame Review, Travis Eddings, Film Threat, September 7, 2000
- Highlander: Endgame Review, James Brundage, FilmCritic.com, 2000
- Highlander: Endgame Review, Carlo Cavagna, About Film, October 2000
- US Movie Box Office Chart Weekend of September 1, 2000. The Numbers (2000-09-01). Retrieved on 2011-06-20.
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