Home > Reviews > HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME – Stephen Graziano and Nick Glennie-Smith

HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME – Stephen Graziano and Nick Glennie-Smith

September 1, 2000 Leave a comment Go to comments

highlanderendgameOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Back in 1986, when the original Highlander series began, Queen’s classic soundtrack song “It’s a Kind of Magic” proudly proclaimed that there can be only one. Fourteen years, three sequels and two TV series later, I still think they were right. Christopher Lambert has never bettered his original performance as the immortal clansman Connor MacLeod, both The Quickening and The Sorcerer were woefully poor movies compared to the hugely entertaining original, and Adrian Paul’s turn in the first of the two spin-offs contained more wood than your local branch of B&Q. Highlander Endgame, the fourth big-screen outing for the franchise, sees Connor MacLeod (Lambert – the cinematic hero) teaming up with Duncan MacLeod (Paul – the small screen hero) for the first time, to take on a new all-powerful and extremely evil immortal named Kell (Bruce Payne). Although the producers wax lyrical about the two actors being the “yin and yang, a symbol of wholeness”, it personally strikes me as being nothing more than a piece of opportunistic film-making by Miramax, eager to cash in on the popularity of the TV series and to give Adrian Paul a movie vehicle. And I thought they’d gotten rid of the last evil immortal when Mario van Peebles got chopped in half at the end of Highlander III… oh, well. There’s love interest in the form of actress Lisa Barbuscia, plenty of sword-wielding action, and the whole thing is directed by Douglas Aarniokoski.

The music for Highlander Endgame, released by GNP Crescendo as an excellent package, is an entertaining enough score, if a little muddled credits-wise. Tracks 1-8 are credited to Stephen Graziano, a journeyman composer from Texas whose previous biggest assignment in the UK was the 1998 thriller Contagious. Tracks 9-14 are by Nick Glennie Smith, a former member of the Media Ventures stable whose career has taken an alarming nosedive since he left Chez Zimmer. Then there is “additional music” by composers Todd Wollon, Rob Cairns and Chris Neel, two tracks of traditional Scottish music… and so it goes on. Considering the amount of post-production problems this score seems to have had, it’s a wonder it turned out this good at all.

Some of the best selections on the album are the traditional Scottish elements, “Bonny Portmore” and “The Song of the Pooka”, arranged by Graziano and performed by the beautiful Enya-esque vocalist Jennifer McNeil, along with a refreshingly in-key set of uilleann pipes. Some of Graziano’s work is surprisingly low-key, like the downbeat piano solo at the beginning of the ‘Opening Titles’, but much of the rest is rather blah action fair (‘Motorcycle Gang Fight’, ‘There Can Be Only One’), with forward-motion synth loops and drum pads, or pseudo-mystical urban grooves (‘Driving to Loft’) which come across like a cut-price Marco Beltrami. Only ‘Say Goodbye to Kate’ really impresses in any way, an enormous collision of percussion, sampled strings and moody female vocals.

Nick Glennie-Smith’s work, on the other hand, is more enjoyable for its familiarity, its thematic content, and its dramatic power. His input into ‘Heather Cuts Her Hair’, especially through the use of the Crimson Tide Male Voice Choir, makes an otherwise unremarkable cue into a full-throated statement of defiance and honor; his 10-minute track ‘The Legend of the Immortals’ is also worth paying attention to and, although mostly synthesized, contains a higher degree of heroic oomph that any of Graziano’s work, a much better thematic sensibility, and a lovely acoustic guitar solo about four minutes in. ‘Connor and Duncan Fight Together’ is a whirlwind Scottish reel, and ‘Killing an Old Friend’ provides the opportunity for Glennie Smith to engage in some more über-anthemic choral work.

Surprisingly for a score of this high a profile, and considering the amount of time and energy that has been lavished on its release, much of it is synthesized; there is certainly no orchestra, and with the exception of the pipes, the occasional guitar and piano element, and the totally unexpected harmonica solo in ‘Ride to the Grave’, virtually everything else is sampled. It intrigued me that there was no conductor or orchestrator listed, and that both Graziano and Glennie-Smith’s cues were credited as being “composed and arranged” by them, implying that no acoustic music was recorded. There’s your reason why.

Let us pray that, after this latest final chapter, the studio heads spare us from any more immortal incarnations, and cease flogging this long-dead horse. As for Graziano and Glennie Smith; I worry. As talented as Graziano is, I cannot see much of a future for him outside of the B-movie action market, as his flair for melody seems undeveloped and his synth programming is nowhere near the standards of David Arnold, Don Davis, and even Larry Groupé. For Nick Glennie-Smith, his career needs to recapture the heights it once enjoyed when he wrote scores such as The Rock and The Man in the Iron Mask, and fast, or else he will be in danger of disappearing beneath the film score radar for good. If he’s been reduced to bailing out people like Graziano just to get work, I think he really needs to find a new agent.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Bonny Portmore (3:46)
  • Opening Titles (10:18)
  • Motorcycle Gang Fight (4:46)
  • Driving to Loft/Getting Duncan/Ride to the Grave (2:36)
  • Say Goodbye to Kate/Last Supper Slash (3:33)
  • Heather Cuts Her Hair (1:08)
  • There Can Be Only One! (Killing Kell) (6:35)
  • Prelude/The Song of the Pooka (3:32)
  • The Legend of the Immortals (10:34)
  • Connor and Duncan Fight Together (0:45)
  • Duncan Visits the Loft (0:54)
  • The Hidden Room (1:16)
  • Attack at the Loft (6:08)
  • Killing an Old Friend (2:17)
  • In Memory of Connor (3:58)

Running Time: 62 minutes 31 seconds

GNP Crescendo GNPD-8067 (2000)

Music composed and arranged by Stephen Graziano and Nick Glennie-Smith. Additional music by Todd Wollon, Rob Cairns and Chris Neel. Special vocal performances by Jennifer McNeil. Recorded and mixed by Jeff Vaughn and Malcolm Luker. Edited by Dino Moriana. Mastered by James Nelson. Album produced by Ford A. Thaxton, Stephen Graziano and Nick Glennie Smith.

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