The Quest (1996) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Jean Claude Van Damme makes his directorial debut, following in the footsteps of other action hero/auteurs, with the semi-intriguing martial arts film The Quest. The movie is a cross between adventure films of the 1940s and typical round-robin fight tournament kick-flicks of the 1980s. The odd thing about The Quest is that the first half, dealing in exotic locals and plot, is better than the action-heavy second half. The Quest is an obvious bid to repeat the success of Bloodsport albeit this time with a bigger budget and scope. Ironic then that Bloodsport is the superior film and is still considered a classic, while The Quest is a nearly forgotten entry in Van Damme’s filmography.

In the slums of New York City during the 1920s, petty thief Chris Dubois (Jean-Claude Van Damme) finds himself on the run from the police. At the docks, he hides on an outbound freight ship leaving for Asia. Taken in by the mysterious Lord Dobbs (Roger Moore) as the boat docks in Thailand, Dubois is introduced to the underground world of martial arts fighting. His training culminates in a secret battle between the world’s greatest fighters that takes place before a select audience in Tibet.

In terms of star-directed movies The Quest is competent, but I get the feeling it’s not the film that was intended. The sets often look like they were shot on the Universal backlot with too much devoted to the arena. Van Damme should have nailed this one, he’s very familiar with the genre and, specifically, tournament movies. So why is The Quest so underwhelming? I think it may have been too much too soon for the action star. Pulling double duty on his first directorial effort is commendable, but the result is a dull retread that feels both rushed and half-baked.

Director: Jean-Claude Van Damme
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Roger Moore, James Remar

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