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Film / The Quest

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

In 1925, a street pickpocket named Christopher Dubois inadvertently boards a smuggler ship to Siam, where he 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:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • Roger Moore's character introduces himself as "Dobbs. Lord Dobbs". Moore also played James Bond, who introduces himself by stating his last name, then his full name, "Bond. James Bond."
    • The sumo wrestler is played by Koji Kitao, a real life grand sumo champion. His character also knows how to parry karate strikes and uses a pro wrestling lariat, just like Kitao has a black belt in Shidokan karate and used to work as a pro wrestler.
  • Advantage Ball: Most of the one sided fights come less from the difference in style and simply how bad the weight/strength difference is. The sumo wrestler makes it to the quarter final because he is just that big and strong.
  • Africa Is a Country: Played straight with the African participant of the duel.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: The German fighter has Nazi-like traits and mannerisms, and is shown training at the Wewelsburg castle.
  • Artistic License – Geography: In 1920, Okinawa was already a part of Japan, but for some reason the Ghang-gheng has two separate representatives for Okinawa and Japan. 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 that represent their countries with real life native martial arts, and in fact it's quite of an unique film for showing some pretty exotic ones (moraingy, Turkish wrestling, Capoeira...), some of the fighters themselves are seen using techniques ostensibly uncommon for their respective styles.
    • The Scottish fighter fight with what seems to be English boxing, but he also throws with spin kicks. All while wearing a kilt.
    • The Okinawan Karate fighter tries a Judo osoto gari against the sumo. Throws are not impossible to see in karate, but they are still a strange choice, particularly against an opponent who is technically a wrestler.
    • The sumo wrestler finishes the karateka with a lariat, like a 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 zero 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.
  • Badass Spaniard: The Spanish fighter. He gives a good fight to Dubois.
  • Bar Brawl: The very opening, where the old Dubois shows his fighting style.
  • Casualty in the Ring: Khan vs. the Thai fighter (who's a close friend of Dubois) ends with Khan executing the latter with a Neck Snap... and feeling zero remorse over it. Dubois even shouts, "It's over! Hit the gong!" to no avail.
  • Confusion Fu: The Chinese fighter alternates between Monkey Drunken Boxing and other kung fu styles.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Most of the fights are pretty one-sided to show the winners' dominance.
  • Darkest Africa: The African fighter is portraited as a wild moraingy practitioner.
  • David Versus Goliath: The small Okinawan fighter is pitted against the gigantic Japanese one and is swiftly crushed.
  • EagleLand: Maxie Devine loves America and makes a great entrance to declare Dubois his replacement.
  • Forgotten Framing Device: The film starts with one framing device and ends with a completely different one. In the opening, the older Dubois reminisces 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.
  • Husky Russkie: The Soviet fighter is expectedly big, burly and clumsy.
  • 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. justified, the film was based on a story by Frank Dux, who also inspired the other film.
  • Stab the Scorpion: During the fight against slavers, Dubois sees Lord Dobbs raising a gun in his direction... and shoots a slaver sneaking up from behind.
  • Stout Strength: The Japanese fighter is a large sumo wrestler.
  • Street Urchin: Dubois looks after an army of young street orphans.
  • Toros y Flamenco: The Spanish fighter. He dresses literally like a cantaor de flamenco, 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.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: It's easy to overlook due to his absolutely brutal fighting style and overall Jerkass personality, but Khan fights cleanly and scrupulosuly heeds every decision made by the Ghang-gheng elder.
  • The Worf Effect: Even after being presented as invulnerable, the sumotori is beaten by Khan to show the Mongolian man's punch power. Discussed by Devine who figured whoever wins the fight would be way more exhausted than Dubois fighting the Chinese only to watch in awe as Khan simply pounds the sumotori in seconds.