Review: The Quest (1996)
Starring JCVD, Roger Moore, James Remar, Abdel Qissi
Fight Choreography by Steven Lambert
Directed by Jean-Claude Van Damme
The Quest is a film that came too little, too late in JCVD’s career. Within a few months after this film was released Jackie Chan would release Rumble in The Bronx in the states, and the Asian wave would begin, capsizing the boats of both JCVD and Steven Seagal, and relegate them to the Direct to DVD bin. The Quest once again brought JCVD back to the world of the tournament fight film that he perfected with Bloodsport…
JCVD stars as Christopher Dubois, a young man living on the streets of New York in 1920 who is a Robin Hood, having the street kids he takes care of steal for their food, and makes the terrible mistake of stealing from a local Italian gangster. Chris steals onto a ship that is attacked by a pirate ship captained by Lord Dobbs (Moore) who strands Chris on Muay Thai island after screwing over the people there, leaving Chris to work for his release. Chris learns the art of Muay Thai fighting, and is reunited with Dobbs, and together they travel to the Lost City to enter into martial arts competition where the prize is a large Golden Dragon. Of course, an array of talented fighters, including Khan (Qissi) will attempt to keep Chris from his goal…
The Quest represented something new for JCVD, both being behind the directors chair and being in a period film, the latter of which actually fit him just fine. His performance was better than in many of his films, and he seemed pretty comfortable. Roger Moore was great as Dobbs, the scoundrel who cons Chris and then turns into an ally. One of the problems I had was with the very beginning and end of the film, which fast forwarded him to the present as an old man, but it never seemed to go anywhere. They would have been better off just going straight into the story, and the aging makeup wasn’t very convincing. The cinematography was well done, until later in the film, where some tilted camera movements and slow motion for scenes that didn’t required it brought too much attention to the camerawork.
Once we get to the actual tournaments, it felt just like a replay of Bloodsport. Montage sequence of different fighters duking it out, check. Have a fellow martial arts brother killed in the ring by main bad guy, who is a large dude, check. JCVD helicopter-kicking the big bad guy into oblivion? Cool, but check. Too much felt familiar here to really enjoy it as much as I wanted to.
The fights were well done, probably JCVD’s best since Bloodsport. It was great to see different styles fight each other, and for the most part was well shot, except for a few spots. (I could have done without hearing James Remar commenting incredulously about what the kung fu guy was doing. “ Now he’s a monkey!”. Ugh.) JCVD’s fight with the kung fu guy was pretty good, and JCVD showed he could at least hang somewhat against that kind of fighter. The final fight didn’t have the dramatic tension it should have had, as it seemed to stretch things out dramatically. Abdel Qissi may be a good fighter but doesn’t show it here, leaving JCVD to do the heavy lifting for their fight, or maybe just something with the fight choreography. Most of the other fights in the film were far better.
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6
Not the best JCVD film ever, and hearkens back to Bloodsport a little too much, but is a pretty decent film to fire into the player on a Friday night. Better yet, just pop in Bloodsport.