A clansman to Connor MacLeod, Jacob Kell would become one of his greatest nemeses, forcing the Highlander to finally lay down his life to protect the ones he cared for.
Raised in Glenfinnan alongside Connor MacLeod, Jacob Kell was Connor's childhood friend. He was also a latent Immortal. He was adopted by the priest, Father Rainey, and grew up to follow in his father's footsteps. When Connor became fully Immortal after his death in the battle against Clan Fraser, a mob went to Connor's home to yell threats, Connor's mother Caiolin MacLeod, was in danger because of him.
Connor left Heather in Glencoe, and immediately rode to Glenfinnan to rescue Caiolin, where he was imprisoned. Ignoring Connor's pleas, Kell planned to burn Caiolin that very night. Enraged, Connor tried to rescue his mother, but it was too late. The fire spread and Glenfinnan residents frantically attempted to stop the fire. As Connor wept over his dead mother, Father Rainey laid a hand on his shoulder, Connor instantly reacted as a warrior and struck before thinking causing Rainey's death. The horrified Kell attacked Connor with a blade, only to also be killed. Kell then revived as an Immortal, and engaged in a life of vengeance.
A Life of Revenge
The newly-Immortal Jacob Kell devoted his life to revenge on Connor MacLeod, pursuing him, taking the heads of any Immortal who knew him. In his spite, he completely disregarded the Rules, and accumulated a private gang of six Immortals: Faith, Jin Ke, Bob "Cracker Bob" Cassidy, Winston Erhuero, Manny Rieta, and Carlos Dash. In direct violation of the accepted rules, Kell's followers swarmed upon unsuspecting targets, pinning them down so that Kell could take their heads.
By the time of the Gathering, Kell, according to Watcher record, was one of the most powerful Immortals alive, with over six hundred kills to his name. At one point, he also implied that he had murdered Brenda as well, and anyone whose name Connor knew, and whose deaths had hurt him. Kell lured Connor back to New York City, to his old antique shop, home of Rachel Ellenstein. When Connor rounded the corner to see his old home and foster daughter, Kell detonated a hidden explosive. Rachel died in a massive explosion, and Connor, in an agony of grief, based on information from Methos, retreated to a Watcher sanctuary.
It took Kell a decade to find Connor again. After finding Connor in The Sanctuary, Kell took the heads of all of the other Immortals there, and left an extra beheaded body the Watchers assumed was Connor. Duncan did not believe Connor was dead, however, and started searching. When he finally made contact, it turned out Kell and Kate were right behind him, and Kell's next target was to be Duncan MacLeod. Neither Connor or Duncan were strong enough to win on their own, so Connor ordered Duncan to take his head, so that their fused power might make him powerful enough to defeat Kell. A very reluctancant Duncan was therefore forced to kill his teacher and friend, and then challenged Kell to a final confrontation.
Kell, unnerved by Duncan having taken Connor's head, killed all of his followers, except Faith. In the final battle, Duncan, armed with Connor's wisdom, was able to defeat and behead Kell.
Kell preferred to use words, rather than trying to be physically intimidating. He made his intentions very clear to the Sanctuary Watchers, saying, "...I do not care about the game. I don't care about the rules. I don't even care about these pathetic souls that you keep locked away as a barrier to the Prize." All Kell cared about was vengeance against Connor MacLeod, which he thought to pass to Duncan after he took Connor's head. He was a master manipulator, and had brainwashed his slaves into believing he was the most powerful Immortal to ever live. Before his death, he had taken 665 heads.
Except for the MacLeods and his minions, no other Immortal knew of Jacob Kell, because he took all the heads of those he met. He is the last known Immortal to ever beat "present day" Duncan in a sword fight. Had he not freaked out when Duncan started defeating his minions, and had he not intended for Duncan to "go on living and suffer the same curse as Connor," and had he chosen to just take Duncan's head, he might have done so.
Kell's preferred weapon was a hand-and-a half side-sword likely from the early Renaissance, with one finger ring upon each side, and a rather wide blade. He also wore a hidden wrist blade on his left arm. During the "Last Supper" sequence in Highlander: Endgame, he uses twin Persian shamshir scimitars.
As for his fighting abilities, Kell effectively mixed raw strength with precision and skill. He mainly aimed to unbalance his opponents first either by vicious blows, or mentally with his suggestive speeches. This either made his foes rush out carelessly like Carlos, or stumble and leave an opening. His style somewhat resembles that of Grayson. He seemed to recognize Connor's finishing move as it was executed on him, predicted the neck-cut, and thus effectively blocked it with the hidden blade.
In earlier scripts of the movie, Kell was originally named "Jacob Kase." But the producers felt that the character's name, though not Scottish in origin, was too similar to the third movie's villain Kane.
Critics of the film praised Bruce Payne's performance in the film.
Billy Idol and Jean-Claude Van Damme were considered for the role of Kell.
The secret move in question was invented by fight choreographer F. Braun McAsh for the movie.