The Quest is basically Bloodsport set in the 20’s. There are a bunch of physically diverse fighters who congregate on a faraway island to duke it out in a secret marital arts tournament. It’s notable for being Jean Claude Van Damme’s directing debut and not much else. He’s no John McTiernan or anything, but he’s a lot more capable than a lot of JCVD’s directors, that’s for sure.
The production values are a step up from the usual Van Damme fare, although the film is light on action for the first hour or so. Once we do get to the fighting however, things don’t necessarily improve. Even though all of the fighters have different skills and abilities (there are Sumo wrestlers, Jamaican breakdancers, a Spanish flamenco dancer, and a drunken monkey fighter just to name a few), all of the fight scenes are interchangeable and none of them are really all that exciting. Also, the build-up to the tournament takes way too long and the scenes of JCVD, Roger Moore, and company sitting around chatting endlessly really stalls the film’s momentum. Van Damme’s final battle with a dude that looks like Karnov is decent but it takes forever to get to it.
The Quest does provide you with some unintended hilarity though. Take the opening scene that’s set in the present day where an old Van Damme walks into a bar and kung fus a bunch of punks with his cane. Not only is the old age make-up on JCVD terrible, but the fight choreography is pretty bad too, which gives you some good chuckles. Then there’s the scene where JCVD is dressed up like a clown and kung fus a bunch of cops while wearing stilts that has to be scene to be believed too.
At least the performances are good. Roger Moore is clearly having a ball while chewing on the scenery as JCVD’s financial backer and James Remar portrays his role as a 20’s style boxer with aplomb. Van Damme is Van Damme, although he’s slightly better here than he was in say, Nowhere to Run. He returned later in the year with Maximum Risk, which was even worse.