Film / The Quest

The Quest is a 1996 martial arts film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The film focuses on a street pickpocket named Christopher Dubois who gets inadvertently in a smuggler ship to Siam, where is found by a mercenary Englishman, Lord Edgar Dobbs (Roger Moore), and sold as a slave to a martial arts master in the Muay Thai Island. After several months, Dobbs finds Dubois again, this time as an expert fighter in an underground muay thai fight. Seeing this opportunity, Dobbs buys Dubois's freedom so he can represent the U.S. in a martial arts tournament called the Ghang-gheng, held in the Lost City of Tibet, where representatives of different countries fight for the Golden Dragon. Along with American reporter Carrie Newton and the heavyweight boxing champion Max Devine, Dubois leaves for his quest for the gold.

This film provides examples of:

  • All Germans Are Nazis: The German fighter has nazi-like traits and mannerisms, and is shown training at the Wewelsurg castle.
  • Artistic License Geography: In 1920, Okinawa was already a part of Japan, but for some reason the Ghang-gheng has separately a Okinawa representative and a Japan representative. On the other hand, Africa as a whole is represented by a single fighter.
  • Artistic License Martial Arts: While the film takes great efforts to show fighters who represent their countries with real life autochthonous martial arts, and in fact it's arguably an unique film for showing some pretty exotic ones (moraingy, Turkish wrestling, capoeira...), some of the fighters themselves are shown using techniques ostensibly uncommon for their respective styles.
    • The Scottish fighter features what seems to be English boxing with spin kicks thrown for good measure. All while wearing a kilt.
    • Two in one: the Okinawan karateka tries a judo-style osoto gari (not impossible to see in karate, but still a strange choice) against the sumo, and his larger opponent simply stands on and lariats him down like pro wrestler.
    • In another pro wrestling example, the Russian fighter looks like some kind of folk wrestler, but instead tries an elbow drop against the Spaniard.
    • Khan is apparently a Mongolian wrestler, but he uses none of wrestling. Instead, his style is based around vicious Good Old Fisticuffs.
    • The biggest artistic license is the Spanish fighter's entire style, which is completely made up and looks like taekwondo (the actor's background) mixed with random bullfighting poses.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Most of the fighters look quite nasty, but Khan is the evilest of them.
  • Braids of Action: Both the Brazilian and the Turkish fighter.
  • Capoeira: Unsurprisingly, the Brazilian fighter uses this style.
  • Confusion Fu: The Chinese fighter alternates between Monkey Drunken Boxing and similar kung fu styles.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Most of the fights are pretty one-sided to show the winners's dominance.
  • Darkest Africa: The African fighter is portraited as a wild moraingy practitioner.
  • David vs. Goliath: The small Okinawan fighter is pitted against the gigantic Japanese one, and is swiftly crushed.
  • Forgotten Framing Device: The film starts with one framing device and ends with a completely different one. In the opening, the older Dubois reminisciences about the tournament he took part in, and in the ending, the closing of the story is presented literally with a book being closed.
  • Groin Attack: How the Chinese fighter defeats the capoerista. Also the Turkish fighter uses a testicular claw against the kilt-clad Scottish pugilist.
  • Man in a Kilt: The Scottish fighter.
  • Martial Arts Headband: Concretely, a muay thai mongkhon.
  • Never Trust a Title: In Spain, the film is named En busca de la ciudad perdida (In search for the Lost City), which makes easy to think it is a regular adventure film and not a martial arts one.
  • No Name Given: Most of the fighters go unnamed, except the protagonist, the Big Bad, Phang (the Siamese) and Gisu Yama (the Japanese fighter).
  • Non Indicative Name: A lot of people seem to know where the Lost City is located. And people live there.
  • One-Hit KO: Most of the fights of the film are pretty short, and the fighters often go down after a single hit. Especially played for the Turkish wrestler, who is knocked out by the sumo in a mere tackle duel which comprises the entire fight.
  • Pec Flex: Some fighters (including the sumo) do this.
  • Red Right Hand: The Turkish fighter has a cataracted eye.
  • Smurfette Principle: Carrie is the only female character.
  • Spiritual Successor: It's basically a Bloodsport remake.
  • Stout Strength: The Japanese fighter, who happens to be a large sumo wrestler.
  • Street Urchin: Dubois looks after an army of young street orphans.
  • Toros y Flamenco: The Spanish fighter. He dresses like a cantaor, crosses himself before the fights and does bullfighting-esque motions to compose himself, not to mention his flirty look to Carrie upon exiting the mat.
  • Training from Hell: Dubois passes an off-screen but presumably brutal one in the Muay Thai Island.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Well, it's a Van Damme film.
  • The Worf Effect: Even after being presented as invulnerable, the sumotori is beaten by Khan to show the Mongolian man's punch power.