Directed by & starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, The Quest (1996) is set unconvincingly in the 1920s, taking place largely in a hidden city in Tibet which is something of a cultic martial arts capital.
This was Van Damme's first directorial effort, & he was completely competent to the task, even if nothing about the film is original.
Monks spread out through the civilized world looking for violent guys to whom to reveal the whereabouts of the secret city. Such fellows must find their way to the hidden city through great hardships, then beat the crap out of each other for personal & national egoboo.
Pretty thin as stories go, it's just an excuse for some martial arts encounters, well done for the limited thing it is, nonstop contests for the last third of the film.
The "martial contest" genre is odd in the way it avoids sexual content or too much swearing, because the target market is not adult; & yet it's so amazingly violent it ends up exemplifying the strangeness of a western culture that thinks sex could be harmful if young viewers were exposed, but bloody murderous mayhem is dandy.
Well done for what The Quest intends to be, it does come way to close to being the same film in which van Damme's had already starred, the rather better, Bloodsport (1988).
Alleging itself to be based on a "true" story of just such an underground martial arts tournement called "the Kumeti," Bloodsport has the top martial artists from around the world, in every national fighting form, gathered together in a secret location for a no-holds-barred contests to the death.
Frank Dux (Van Damme) has trained under the harshest instruction virtually since childhood to prepare for the Kumeti, intent on becoming the first westerner to survive as the number one champion.
A few bits of plot & character have to be sorted through before he can reach his destination, but after the initial set-up for what's going to happen, the contests begins, & the rest of the film is a series of martial encounters, nothing less & nothing more.
These encounters are quite glorious, varied, sometimes strange, violent of course, manipulated for emotional content with good guys & bad guys experiencing rage, sorrow, defeat, & victoriousness.
It's perhaps ridiculous but as an action film, it's not dashed-together junk. It's put together with affection for the martial arts film genre, as good as such simpleminded films ever get. And Van Damme early in his film career was so young & beautifully buff, he's just great to watch.
Two soldiers in Viet Nam kiill each other when Luc (Jean-Claude Van Damme) tries to stop the massacre of innocent villagers, pissing off Andrew (Dolph Lundgren).
Their bodies are shipped to a secret government laboratory, where they are turned into experimental cyborgs, each being a titular Universal Soldier (1992).
In the future, Luc is incarnated as GR44, but begins having flashbacks, remembering he was once a human warrior, possessing a moral core that makes him less willing to commit carnage just because the government wants him to.
Dolph Lundgren is turned into cyborg GR13, & is not nearly so concerned about once having been human, not having been much of one in the first place.
An example of "looksism," Dolph is clearly cast at the bad cyborg because he's an ugly hunk of muscle & even has the ugly-ass name Dolph. By contrast Jean-Claude is the good guy because he's pretty. The director is a high-end guy compared to who usually gets assigned to direct most such simple action fare, giving this one a glossy attractive veneer.
The good cyborg falls in love with a reporter (Ally Walker), but they can't live happily after while GR13 is tracking his hated rival. It's cyborg versus cyborg for a major goofitunes martial arts sci-fi finale. If the whole notion sounds at all interesting, rest assured it's indeed just as good as you thought it could be. But if think it sounds stupid, you're still right. See also, Universal Soldier: The Return (1999).
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl