The Quest

A bulky suited figure appears (back to camera) wearing what looks like an inexpensive wig to signal the greying of years. As the figure approaches a bar not dissimilar from that found in Desperado his youthful voice reveals what we already suspect: this is our hero, J.C.V.D., and don't you ever forget it. This time he is not only starring and responsible for co-authoring the story line, but has directed the whole bout: sort of an exercise in monetary martial arts. In this tale the action superstar, in the character of Chris DuBois, begins as a clown-faced Fagin whose heart is in the right place, but hand is in other people's pockets. Pursued by mobsters and police alike, he leaps onto a ship, knocking himself out. Upon awakening, he discovers that he is free from the cops and robbers only to be chained and shackled by a gang of gun smuggling Turks. Achieving freedom once again, very much like Pearl White, as pirates storm the freighter, he trustingly accompanies the scoundrel Lord Dobbs (Roger Moore) to Muay Thai Island only to be sold as a fighter. While indentured and sharpening his fighting skills, he hears of the Ghang-gheng, a secret invitation-only martial arts competition of the world's 16 best fighters. Of course, our boy wants to go. Get the gist? Once we get to the competition, the prize of which is a golden dragon, there are lots and lots of fighters, lots of fighting styles, lots of aggression, and lots of work for Foley artists.

Janet Gunn as Carrie Newton, the female interest this time around, carries a cigarette like no other reporter I've ever seen and James Remar, as J.C.'s ticket to glory, manages to give the most thinly sliced performance in his career. Roger Moore looks like he had fun shooting in Thailand. Phuket. Most notable is the conglomeration of fighters and fighting styles that Van Damme has gathered together. Keep an eye open for Brazilian Capoeirista master Cesar Caneiro and Chinese Wu Shu champion Peter Wong for performances that resemble dance. And, of course, who could dismiss the threatening eyebrows of Abdel Quissi as the threatening Mongolian warrior Khan? But, no matter how many come to battle, we have no doubt that the boyish Belgian with the bright blue eyes will win the day.

Van Damme himself describes the film as "Ben Hur meets The Man Who Would Be King in Asia, with a touch of an old Saturday matinee serial." What more is there to say?

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett