Usually when a film is left to gather dust in a movie vault before being dumped onto cable, they’re a reason: it’s terrible. “Highlander: The Source” is no exception to the rule, in fact it more than anything else it confirms it. While the 5th Highlander film has an interesting premise, that’s about all it has to offer anyone.

Set in Eastern Europe, “The Source” shows us a world fallen into chaos an anarchy. Duncan Macleoud, aka the Highlander, hasn’t fared much better. He’s taken to perching on rooftops, drinking from a flask and mourning the wife who left him. While Duncan’s stunk in his funk, Methos has conveyed a hi-tech teleconference with Immortals around the world to discuss mysterious events in the heavens above. Can all this herald the arrival of the mythical Source, the legendary Holy Grail of the Immortals? Their suspicions are confirmed when Immortal archaeologist Zai breathlessly checks in, desperate to tell the group about a mysterious holy order called the Brotherhood of Pain and the location of the Source. Too soon, he’s killed by the crazed and amazingly powerful Guardian, who safeguards the secrets of the Source.

Methos and his fellow Immortals head to the secret monastery, but complications occur when Duncan’s estranged wife appears with visions that can provide valuable direction on their quest. Duncan also soon joins them, although he doesn’t seem to believe in the Source and frequently looks like he wishes he were somewhere else. But their path is far from easy, since standing in their way is the Guardian anxious take some heads; worse yet, the closer they get to the Source the more they find themselves fighting each other.

“The Source” marks first film without the original series star Christopher Lambert, and much falls on Adrian Paul to fill his shoes as the new heroic lead. But whatever ability he has seems to have gone elsewhere for the duration of the movie; most of the film he looks like he’s trying to pass a kidney stone while being audited. His attempt to reconnect with his estranged wife come across as a forced plot device; Whatever happened to the wife he was desperate to win back in the last film or all the women he was in love with during the television series? It’s a bit hard to root for a romantic hero with such a messy personal life. As Duncan’s latest estranged wife Anna, Thekla Reuten blandly lacks any charm and screen prescence, and you’d wonder why Duncan spends so much time moping about her. Her reason for walking out on Duncan Macleoud also comes off as rather superficial, telling him she’s leaving because they can’t conceive children doesn’t exactly endear her to anyone’s heart. If adoption worked for Connor in “Highlander III”, why wouldn’t it work for them two sequels later?

But in some sort of cinematic paradox, the rest of the film’s performances are rather good despite the fact the film is so shockingly bad. Series veteran Peter Wingfield returns in a dignified turn as the 1,000 year old Methos and leader of the quest. Thom Fell, Stephen Wright, and Stephen Rahman Hughes all go above and beyond as participants in the search for the Source, especially Fell as a devout Catholic Cardinal whose search is more motivated by faith than anything else. Probably the biggest standout is Cristian Solimeno as The Guardian, portraying the most murderous albino since “The DaVinci Code”. While Solimeno frequently goes over the top with his role, he fuses his character with a mad charisma that steals any scene he appears in. In what amount to an extended cameo, Jim Byrnes appears as Joe Dawson long enough to prove his devotion to his closest friend Duncan.

Director Brett Leonard does a decent job in helming a film that’s about 10% silk purse and 90% sow’s ear. He gives the city scenes a nifty “Blade Runner” type look, and should be given extra praise for adding dramatic weight to what would otherwise be a bland teleconferencing scene. A major problem is with the action sequences, which seem to be given a cursory treatment after Zai’s battle with The Guardian. Think of the “Highlander” films and it’s hard not to think of swordplay, but Leonard seems to brush them aside in favor of the script–such as it is. Writers Stephen Kelvin Watkins and Mark Bradley should have come up with something much better than this, having already scripted the “Highlander” anime film and television series. They’ve given us a good concept, but their story rapidly disintergrates into a confusing mess. Not for lack of their trying, they throw everything at the audience: worldwide anarchy, Immortals losing their powers, cannibalistic gangs–but none of this really meshes into anything coherent. Worse yet is the teasing promise of the origin of the Immortals being finally revealed, a promise that never is fulfilled into anything explainable.

With all the time it took to get “Highlander: The Source” to the screen, the final result should have been far better. Instead, the producers have delivered a film that’s largely well acted off a mediocre script and competent direction. Fans of the series best should look to 2010 when the “Highlander” remake is released, if anything to wash the taste of the disappointing film out of their mouths.