The Quest (1996) Platinum Cult Edition

Plot: Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as Chris Dubois, a clown pickpocket and leader of orphan thieves in 1925 New York City. Kidnapped by gun smugglers and then sold to pirate captain Lord Dobbs (Roger Moore), Chris eventually ends up the property of Khao (Aki Aleong), a master Asian kick boxer. His fighting skills win Chris a chance at a legendary contest, a gladiatorial showdown between champions of the world’s many diverse combat styles in a Tibetan lost city.

The Quest was JCVD’s directorial début and I have to say that it’s nicely shot, has great fight scenes and a fabulous epic-sounding score by Randy Edelman.

This review is for the German Platinum Cult Edition of the film that came out in 2013; the film has been perfectly remastered with flawless picture and excellent 5.1 surround sound. As The Quest always looked great it was important for it to get a decent HD transfer and this is definitely it. There are stunning landscape shots throughout the movie which now look better than ever.

Special features on the Blu-ray include behind scenes videos and galleries, interviews with JCVD and Roger Moore and more but for some reason I can only get them to work on certain Blu-ray players; the movie plays fine but the special features are annoyingly unresponsive which is quite frustrating. I imagine this is because the Blu-ray is Region Free so it struggles to run properly on North American players.

The production of The Quest apparently wasn’t a happy one; according to IMDB Frank Dux apparently sued Jean-Claude Van Damme over the writing credits of the movie, claiming that Van Damme and he wrote the story together under the title “The Kumite: Enter the New Dragon” in 1991. JCVD denied this, claiming the two projects were unrelated. Dux won his story credit via a ruling of the Writer’s Guild of America but lost the actual court case.

The Quest definitely has a Bloodsport feel to it and would be a fitting double bill although it’s not quite as good as the 1988 classic.

So let’s talk about the movie itself; I never thought I’d see a movie with Van Damme and James Bond (Roger Moore) together but here it is. Jean-Claude has rarely been in better shape, looking mean as Hell and built like a tank. He has some great fighting moves in The Quest, even working in some Muay Thai. The martial arts on display are the highlight of the movie with fighters from all over the world displaying their rather amazing talents. The only element which bugged me was the over-use of slow motion during the fights which took away some of the intensity form them.

It was only after watching the movie last night that I’d discovered it was PG-13; I’m pretty sure some of the violence was cut as the film was either a 15 or 18 in the UK. It didn’t ruin the fight scenes, however they are rather bloodless which takes way a bit of the realism. This “Uncut” version is exactly the same as every other version I’ve seen of The Quest so I think that’s merely on the cover to encourage people to buy it.

Despite the lack of blood, the film is like an old-fashioned adventure film with hints of Indiana Jones and a genuinely epic feel.

JCVD’s character Christopher Duboit is quite naive and easily misled which makes him more interesting than your average martial arts movie badass.

It’s hard to believe that actor Abdel Qissi who plays Mongolian fighter Khan is the same guy who plays Attila in Lionheart as he looks totally different. His fighting style is never flashy but relies purely on his immense size and brute strength. He never speaks a word in this movie but is still an intimidating presence and is essentially the same character as Chong Li was in Bloodsport.

Roger Moore plays the loveable rogue Captain Dobbs with glee and you can’t help smile when he’s on screen; although he is a little creepy in places and after the movie was completed Moore described The Quest as one of the worst he’s done. I think that’s a little unfair; sure it is quite cheesy in parts I think it’s got plenty to enjoy and if you’re a Jean-Claude Van Damme completist like I am then you’ll end up picking this up.

Overall, The Platinum Cult Edition of The Quest is beautifully remastered with crisp images and sound but the temperamental special features do get frustrating on different machines. The movie itself is still flawed but has plenty of excellent fight scenes and a likable cast so it’s worth picking up.