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. Kate appears and explains to Duncan that Kell spared her life. Kate and Duncan share a kiss, suggesting that they will reconcile their marriage and live together forever.Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod
Christopher Lambert as Connor MacLeod
Bruce Payne as Jacob Kell
Lisa Barbuscia as Kate MacLeod / Faith
Donnie Yen as Jin Ke
Jim Byrnes as Joe Dawson
Peter Wingfield as Methos
Damon Dash as Carlos
Beatie Edney as Heather MacLeod
Sheila Gish as Rachel Ellenstein
Oris Erhuero as Winston
Ian Paul Cassidy as Cracker Bob
Adam Copeland as Lachlan (as Edge)
Mihnea Trusca as Villager
June Watson as Caiolin MacLeod
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 Wyatt to the building. And in the rooftop Quickening, two shots of Connor and Heather MacLeod 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 which was continuing on television 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, a decision 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.)
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.
Highlander: Endgame holds an 11% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 54 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.
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.