Colin MacLeod has been on a 2000 year long quest for revenge against fellow immortal Marcus Octavius who murdered his wife. In the year 2187 he comes across the ruins of New York and soon realises that the megalomaniac that rules this wasteland is his arch foe. Falling in with a group of rebels can he finally fulfil his all consuming quest?
There can be only one went the tagline of 80s head-lopping classic Highlander and with its conclusive finale the prospect of further adventures for Connor MacLeod appeared slim. But thanks to its huge success on home video a rather uninspiring series of sequels followed. Now fans can once again cross their fingers as the latest incarnation of the immortal sword fighting saga arrives, Highlander: The Search For Vengeance.
Directed by acclaimed anime filmmaker Yoshiaki Kawajiri it adheres to the themes and conventions of the original but shrewdly avoids continuity with the by now rather muddled adventures of Connor MacLeod. Instead we have a new hero to root for, Colin MacLeod (the MacLeod clan must be getting used to all these immortals in the family by now) who swears revenge on the immortal Roman general responsible for crucifying his wife and decimating his tribe in 125BC Britain. What follows is the familiar mix of decapitations, historical flashbacks, ruminations on lost love and tutelage from an older mentor, in this case Amergan the spirit of a druid. Of course what would a Highlander movie be without dodgy Scottish accents? Happily they're also in evidence in this latest offering.
So far so uninspiring but what is surprising is how entertaining the whole thing is. The manga style with its familiar post apocalyptic setting, busty gun toting heroines and propensity for OTT violence suits the tale with some top notch set pieces, stylish sword fights and clever transitions between the past and the present, a hallmark of the original. Although Colin makes for a bit of a bland hero his relationships with both Octavius – like Colin an obsessively driven man but by the desire to rebuild the ideal of the Roman Empire rather than revenge – and his mentor who crops up in the guise of animals to rebuke him for his self-destructive search for vengeance, adds richness to the narrative.
By returning to the simplicity of the first film (you won't find any nonsense about alien origins here) Highlander: The Search For Vengeance is a thoroughly enjoyable animated feature coupling classy visual flourishes with a lean plot. Then again taking into account the appalling sequels it hasn't really got much to live up to. Anime fans will want to seek this out due to its director's pedigree but those unfamiliar with the genre are still advised to give this a go. The prospect of further anime adventures for Highlander also seems possible, an idea that for once won't fill fans with dread.