Tuesday, 6 April 2010

No.26 : The Quest

Jean Claude Van Damme stars in this total mess of a movie which is pretty close to almost everything else he’s ever done, most noticeably ‘Bloodsport’.

The film opens with an old man shuffling into a bar and ordering one of those coffees that all bars have ready poured in the cup from under the counter. We can’t see the old man’s face but when three toughs storm in and demand the takings we learn that he is in fact an aged Van Damme wearing more make up than the Boots No.5 counter. He predictably kicks ass and we then get drawn into his rather dull life story.

We go back to Tibet in 1925 where a gang of monks are for some reason sending invites to all the best fighters of the world to their big tournament. Their motivations are unclear, and it can’t be for the pay for view rights, but there is a massive solid gold dragon up for grabs. Van Damme isn’t on the guess list however as he’s dressed up a clown and fighting the mob and the police on the streets on a New York street that looks suspiciously like the far east where the rest of the film was shot. At least they splashed out on some police uniforms to sell the deception!

Jean Claude has to get out of town in a hurry as all his enemies close in and manages to stow away on a ship heading east. This turns out to be a gun running ship and our man is up for the chop when he is saved by Roger Moore’s buccaneer captain who takes him under his wing. But wait! Roger is a dodger and he sells Van Damme to an oriental fighting school. We then move on six months to the same set now labelled ‘Bangkok’ where a ballsy lady journalist persuades Roger to take her to an underground fight club. Guess who’s the star attraction? Go on two goes…

Van Damme tells Roger of the big fight contest and they resolve to go along to get the golden dragon by whatever means possible. Van Damme still isn’t invited but they manage to hook up with James Remar’s boxing champion and gate crash the event. With everyone now in place the contest of national stereotypes begins - can Claude fight his way to glory and riches or will the sneaky Roger steal the big prize. Before we know it we’re back in the bar with the old man having us wishing we hadn’t bothered!

This is a really awful film even in the generally crappy genre of martial arts movies. Despite being unable to act Van Damme also directs and co-writes and it’s pretty clear that he can do neither of these as well. The plot is so derivative of ‘Blood Sport’ that it’s not true, right down to the sassy lady journalist and the tournament format that sees all the eclectic styles of fighting represented and beaten by the good old face kick.

It’s pretty clear that New York, Tibet, Bangkok and The Forbidden City are all within five minutes of each other but you could forgive this if so little effort was made in disguising the fact - caption cards aren’t sufficient! The fights were very uninspiring and almost every bout followed the same format of one guy getting the first few blows in before being bested. The competitors were ridiculous with a kilt wearing Scot and a pointed hatted German all doing battle. As always there is a ‘baddie’ competitor, in this case the Mongolian who’s nationality was presumably chosen to reflect the lack of video recorders in that part of the world.

Roger Moore was totally unconvincing as the swash buckling adventurer and it’s no surprise that this ranks as his least favourite of his own films - no ‘Bullseye!’ is this! James Remar does OK in this, his second definite outing in a row following his second banana turn in ‘The Phantom’, but why he turns his back on the riches to support Van Damage isn't made clear. Most of the acting comment must be reserved for Van Damme who is as wooden and unconvincing as you’d probably expect. You could say that this is a man who knows his limits and sticks to them but that’s hardly an excuse for foisting this sub-par nonsense upon us.

THE Tag Line : Quest Ain’t The Best 34%

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