Perhaps wisely, Dimension Films kept Highlander: Endgame from press screenings, but the film still entertains as a fantasy-adventure genre picture. This fourth movie based on characters created by Gregory Widen tells how Conner MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) joins up with his fellow 'immortal' and MacLeod clan relative, Duncan (Adrian Paul), to stop the evil Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne) from killing off all the other immortals and becoming the sole survivor.

Conner and Jacob also engage in a personal grudge match because, centuries earlier, Conner killed Jacob's father after his father had burnt Conner's mother at the stake. (She was considered a witch for giving birth to an immortal child.) Duncan, meanwhile, contends with surprise attacks by Faith (Lisa Barbuscia), a model-agency owner who was married to Duncan in the previous century but now works as a member of Jacob's gang. (She is rightfully angry at Duncan for turning her into an immortal by killing her on their wedding night.) All is resolved when Conner duels with Duncan, so that when Duncan kills him, they become a single immortal who possesses the strength and resolve to finally rid of the dastardly Jacob.

'Highlander' was one of the more stylish television series of the 1990s-a better show, in fact, than all four Highlander movie installments, including the 1986 original, which starred Lambert and Sean Connery, the latter as Conner MacLeod's teacher and guide. This new sequel (and probably last, given the title's implication) features the series' imaginative narrative ideas, top-notch fight sequences, and smart-looking production and costume designs (time-traveling through different epochs). It is also the first of the feature films to team Adrian Paul, the TV show's star, with the original film's lead, Christopher Lambert, although top-billed Paul clearly shows up Lambert as the more charismatic of the two actors. (Both men look quite a bit older these days, despite the fact that their characters are not supposed to age.)

The dual-hero plot works out to clever advantage in the climax, where the characters physically merge forces to defeat the hissable and somewhat campy villain. (This scene is marred slightly by the constant presence of a billboard plugging a certain video product.) Fans will celebrate the many beheadings (more than in Sleepy Hollow!), but they may protest that some of the series' regulars are not featured or appear only briefly (including Jim Byrne's 'Watcher,' who monitors the immortals' activities), and some aspects of the story are not true to the original's conception (e.g., it is a violation of Duncan's code of ethics to kill his bride in order to make her immortal).

All audiences, even those unfamiliar with the series, will be disappointed with how the expertly staged fight scenes are photographed (too closely) and edited (too quickly), especially since it's hard to get a good swordfight in movies today (and Paul handles the swordplay with grace and skill). Still, Highlander: Endgame makes a fitting coda for a franchise that respects its audience with creative flights of fancy.

--Eric Monder