Martial Arts
The Quest
Dir: Jean Claude Van Damme
Star: Jean Claude Van Damme, James Remar, Roger Moore, Janet Gunn
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1996
Format: VIDEO

On the streets of 1920's New York, Chris Duboir (Jean Claude Van Damme) is regarded as a bit of a clown, except of course by the gang of young boys that he looks after and uses in a Fagin kind of way to steal. After narrowly escaping the very disgruntled local mob, Duboir stows away on a ship only to find that it is smuggling guns and with him being a stowaway he is forced to work before they kill him. Before the captain gets chance to kill him the ship is attacked by con-man and pirate "Lord" Edgar Dobbs (Roger Moore) who once he rescues Chris takes him to Muay Thai Island where he can get a ship back the USA.
This is of course merely a rouse by Dobbs who has actually sold Chris to Kao (Aki Aleong) the master of the Island and teacher of the island completely populated by his kick boxing students. Chris learns Muay Thai and soon begins to compete in Bangkok where he meets up again with Dobbs, but Chris approaches him with a cunning plan in order to for him to regain his freedom from Muay Thai Island.

Chris has learned of an ultimate competition called the Ghan-gheng where the worlds best and in some cases deadliest fighters are invited to the fabled "lost city" in Tibet where they compete for recognition of being the greatest in the world and for a prize of a solid gold dragon in the winner takes all contest.

Not having an invitation certainly limits Chris' chances of going to the Ghan-gheng so he wants Dobbs' help in getting there and if possible stealing the dragon. With the help of Carrie Newton (Janet Gunn) a newspaper reporter, they learn that the world heavyweight boxing champion Maxie Devine has been invited to attend so they pose as his guides to the contest in order to follow the map which is only printed on his invitation.

The Quest is written by Jean Claude Van Damme and Frank Dux. Frank Dux as some may recall was the man that Van Damme portrayed in Blood Sport and is a renowned martial artist and unbeaten Kumite champion as well as the founder of Dux Ryu (a form of Ninjitsu). Whatever possessed him to write this story with Van Damme who knows, but what I do know is that you can see Dux's influence throughout the story which is usually the more historical and technical facets as opposed to the puritanical claptrap which can only be down to " Van Dumm".

The direction by Jean Claude Van Damme is mind numbingly slow going and mostly painfully awful. The action sequences are almost identical to any other Van Damme movie and generally a lot of actual martial arts are missed. The story is of Duboir learning Muay Thai and yet when it comes to the fights there is very little kick boxing, instead you get the usual brand of ostensibly impractical balletic karate that Van Damme has used in almost all of his films. Plenty of screen time is devoted of course to the director who being the self-obsessed egotistical narcissist that he is, likes to look at himself at the expense of others. Very little attention is paid to the assembled cast of real martial artists who provide a visually stimulating performance as exponents of their respective arts and who the spotlight should really have been focussed on.

There was some good potential for the film and virtually none of it was realised, perhaps the combination of Jean Claude Van Damme directing and starring is a major contributing factor. If a more accomplished martial artist had starred perhaps Mark Dacascos or Jet Li it may have been more plausible and worked better. A good and proven director would have also been another valuable asset. Dux could have written the story on his own and after seeing the film you will wish that he had done. It is always nice to see former 007, Roger Moore back in front of the camera and in something other than a Bond movie, as you don't get to see much of him nowadays. His performance seems a little strained as Dobbs, but that can easily be attributed to the terrible script. Apart from Roger Moore the film is quite tiresome and features a frighteningly awful performance from James Remar as Maxie Devine the heavyweight boxer, which pretty much seals it's fate. This is two films that I have seen James Remar in so far where he has been quite awful, the other being Mortal Kombat 2: Annihilation where he plays Raiden with a new look. (camptastic or "Fruity" Raiden)

On top of all of that you have the general story of an oppressed underling or outsider making good, and the story of a mans journey of discovery as he participates in a sometimes brutal martial arts contest. There is to be honest nothing new here and the whole package is disappointing the kumite and combat contest story has over the years been flogged to death and frankly there are so many of those films out there it is difficult to find something new. A film that starts with the line "it was long ago" should really be given a wide berth. The Quest is one of those films that you kind of regret watching and shouldn't be exposed to the movie loving public.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home