The Quest is probably one of Van Damme’s most interesting pictures, the reason being that he also wrote and directed the movie. The Quest is his directorial debut and until The Eagle Path/Full Love (or whatever they’re going to name it) is finally released the only movie directed by Van Damme to date. In The Quest he returns to where he started: the tournament movie. You can actually call this movie a bigger budget remake of his own Bloodsport, especially when you consider the fact that the guy Bloodsport was based upon, Frank Dux, is billed as a co-writer of this story.
The Quest opens up in present day with a geriatric Van Damme who walks into a bar. Some young men enter the bar shortly after him with the intent of robbing the place. Not so surprisingly Grandpa Van Damme takes them out with ease resulting in the bartender to ask that one certain question which we hear a lot in action movies: where did you learn to fight like that?
And so the story begins by an old man reflecting on his past life. The story is set in 1925 where Van Damme lives in New York and looks after a group of orphans. The first we meet him he’s dressed up as a clown, walking stilts and all. He and the orphans steal and scam their way through live which gets Van Damme in trouble with the law and some criminals they stole from. Van Damme leaves the country as a stowaway and is enslaved. Once the ship is near Thailand he’s freed by James Bond himself: Roger Moore. In this movie he goes by the name of Lord Dobbs and makes his money by pirating and schemes. He sells Van Damme without him even knowing to some people on the island of Siam where Van Damme receives Muay Thai training. Long story short: Van Damme ends up in a Kumite-like tournament called Ghang-gheng where he’s joined by Dobbs and his partner in crime Harri, journalist Carrie and boxing champion Maxie Devine (James Remar) whose place he’s taking since Maxie thinks Van Damme is the better fighter of them two.
Well there’s no denying that the movie resembles Bloodsport a lot. Not just the tournament element, but all kinds of details from Bloodsport work their way into this The Quest; A variety of fighting styles, the female journalist, the fighter/friend and even the final opponent echoes other opponents from past Van Damme movies. In fact, the final opponent here: a mongolian fighter, is played by the same person who also played the end-boss Attila in Wrong Bet. Another movie in which Van Damme fights his way through some kind of tournament.
As a remake this isn’t a truly bad movie, though it’s somewhat uneven. The first hour is filled with development only to stop doing that completely once the tournament starts, after which The Quest consists of one fighting sequence after another for the remainder if its duration. The strangest thing was that they never really showed how Van Damme became so good in Muay Thai. Dobbs just sells him and we see some first encounters with the fighting style, but no real development. This just screams for a montage. I also couldn’t understand why Van Damme’s character keeps on hanging around a guy like Dobbs knowing perfectly well that everything he says is probably a lie. The guy sold you as a slave dude!
On a positive note: The Quest contains a lot of fun fighting sequences which due to all the different styles never feel repetitive and while his character could have been ditched halfway through the movie, Roger Moore brings some credibility to the movie as the always scheming Dobbs. He’s the only guy on screen who can actually act.
The Quest is a fun way to waste 90 minutes. It’s not the most memorable of Van Damme’s movies but it does give us the opportunity to see Van Damme as an old geezer and as a clown.