Highlander: The Search for Vengeance

UK Distributor:  Manga Entertainment

BBFC Certificate:  N/A (Special Screening)

Running Time:  80mins (approx.)

Director:  Yoshiaki Kawajiri

Audio for Screening:  English

Cinema:  Apollo West End, Piccadilly, London

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


There have been a few occasions where Western franchises have been turned into anime, often with varying success.  The Japanese version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles floundered after two episodes and Demeshita! Powerpuff Girls Z lacks the knowing humour and surrealism of the American cartoon it is based on.  However, surely Highlander - a story that features sword-wielding immortals - would fare better, especially with the director and studio behind Ninja Scroll at the helm. 

Highlander Vengeance is a bit of a new dawn for the successful franchise.  Gone are Connor Macleod (the films), Duncan Macleod (the TV series) and Quentin Macleod (the cartoon), and in comes Colin Macleod and a post-apocalyptic future.  Colin is wandering the world searching for his nemesis Marcus Octavius, a powerful immortal who took everything he had as the head of the Roman legion who destroyed his home centuries before.  His endless quest for vengeance has caused him pain and heartache throughout history and try as he might Marcus has always proved too strong for him.  His journey through the Fist of the North Star style wastelands brings him to New York, a city state dominated by a massive golden tower and ruled by a powerful despot.  The people who don't blindly obey live beneath the ruins of the old city, fighting a battle for survival against a deadly disease that is claiming increasing numbers of lives.  They need a supply of a vaccine which is reserved for those within the tower, and try to enlist Colin's help to steal some.  However, the vaccine is not Colin's aim.  He has learned that the ruler of the city is none other than Marcus, and he agrees to help so that he can once again face his eternal foe.

 Highlander Vengeance is a bit of a strange crossover, coming across as some kind of odd amalgam of Fist of the North Star, the Highlander cartoon series and a Chuck Norris film.  You have the mysterious and powerful hero searching for a villain who has done him wrong, you have ruined cities and endless wastelands, and you have a hugely powerful villain who has forged his own empire filled with faceless minions for the hero to beat the crap out of.  Oh, and I nearly forgot the villain's diabolical plan which the hero must thwart to

save countless innocent lives.  You've seen it all before, the setup and plot could have come out of any number of 1980's action films.  This made it seem strangely old fashioned despite some decent CGI, and also saved it from being totally awful.

The thing with these kinds of action films is that you don't expect much more from them than entertainment.  Acting, dialogue and plot are secondary to action and sheer cheese factor, and on these counts Highlander Vengeance is great.  It is a cheesy old-school action film, with plenty of action and even more cheese.  It is great fun, Colin Macleod is the typical taciturn hero, Marcus is the typical megalomaniacal supervillain, you've got the the feisty love interest, cheesy kid and ghostly druid comic relief.  The design work on the buildings and military vehicles is great, Kawajiri's style is evident throughout and the characters are drawn in the same style as those in Ninja Scroll.  In fairness the story isn't too bad either, and an attempt to give some weight to Colin's struggle is provided by a series of flashbacks into his past.

 The flashbacks to other times has always been Highlander's strongest innovation, rolling period drama, historical epic and modern action film into one.  With Highlander Vengeance we get to see Colin face Marcus in places as varied as ancient Rome, feudal Japan and World War 2 Britain.  Through the flashbacks we get a sense of the history between the pair, but unlike in the original film the flashbacks do seem to be a bit tacked on.  There's no point to them other than to show that Colin always loses to Marcus, in the earlier films they were

 used to flesh out the main character, in this one they just tell us what we already know.  It's a shame that this is the case, as it means that the other aspects of Highlander Vengeance have to be good to compensate.  Sadly they're not.

 Highlander Vengeance is sheer cheese.  You have cheesy Scotsmen ('to FREEDOM!' 'Aye, FREEDOM!!'), cheesy Cockney Romans who sound like they have escaped from Eastenders, and possibly the cheesiest sex scene since Lethal Weapon 2.  It's totally over-the-top, in places completely stupid, and frequently unintentionally hilarious, but because of this it's also quite fun.  Whether you'll like it or not will depend on your cheese tolerance and love of 80's style action films.  A simple test is to ask yourself if you like things like Vampire Hunter D and Fist of the North Star, and whether you can put up with a disappointing ending that is pretty unsatisfactory and cumulates with music from chief emo miserabilists HIM.  If the answer is yes then you'll probably like this, if not you'll find it very predictable, incredibly cheesy and totally laughable.  Get the beers in to get the most out of it I think...


Feature:   Extras: N/A

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