Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"World War Z" - Zombie Movies in the Time of Coronavirus.

 SPOILERS ahead.

I’ve been using movies and writing about movies as a distraction during this pandemic, but my wife and I did decide to watch World War Z because of it. Most people went with Contagion or Outbreak for their pandemic-related stress watch, but we’re zombie people. As it turns out, World War Z is the perfect movie for this situation, as the zombie outbreak is viewed from a disease control point of view rather than just survival. That is what I liked about it the first time I saw it, and that is what I appreciated most about it during my pandemic rewatch. I love zombie movies, but I do find the acceptance of the outbreak to be a bit annoying at times. Even Romero’s films that did deal with studying the zombies (Day) or how they evolved (Land) were not concerned with how it started or how, or if, it could be cured. There’s nothing wrong with that, and Romero’s films are still my favorite, but it is refreshing to see a movie take the unsettlingly realistic approach that World War Z takes, even if it does deviate from its source material in major ways. For me and my wife personally, this rewatch also made us think about a much more terrifying aspect of a zombie outbreak: dealing with the situation with children.

Everything Changes When You Have Kids, Even How You React to Zombie Movies.

Becoming a parent has changed me in many ways, especially how I watch movies. For the most part, it just makes me cry during movies much more often. Watching a zombie movie is different, though. Of course the idea of trying to protect my children during a zombie apocalypse adds to the terror of the genre, but with World War Z it occurred to me that the true nightmare of it all would be forgetting to pack a blankie.

In World War Z, Brad Pitt and his family are stuck in traffic when the outbreak hits. On top of the general chaos of the situation, they can’t find their youngest daughter’s blankie, and they don’t have albuterol for their older daughter’s asthma. Now this is the kind of terrible shit I can identify with. 

Anyone with a child, but especially people with two or more, can identify with what an ordeal it is to simply leave the house. As parents of a baby and a toddler, there’s a fifty/fifty chance we will forget something when we leave home. The hope is that it’s something minor like an extra toy or a burp cloth and not something detrimental like formula or a beloved blanket. When Pitt’s daughter screamed for her blanket, my wife and I exchanged knowing glances: this would totally happen to us in this situation. I could picture my daughter screaming for a blanket as society crumbled around her with perfect clarity. What’s scarier is the fact that I know I would be much more concerned with finding her blanket than I would be with the collapse of civilization around me. Parenting really does a number on a person when it comes to concern for getting a child to shut up being more important than your overall compassion for your fellow man. 

Jokes aside, keeping your children not only alive but also calm would be a monumental task in such a situation. How could I possibly keep my three-year-old daughter calm in this scenario? Even once we got out of the city and things were half-assed calm, we would still have to deal with the barrage of inevitable and unanswerable questions. “Why that man bite that lady? Daddy why you run over that woman? Are monsters gonna eat us? Where their mommies and daddies? Where’s Nana and Pop Pop?” Not to mention dealing the typical declarations of, “I scared” and “I hungry.” 

Tough questions would be one thing, medicine would be another. Thankfully, my children don’t require any daily meds, but it is pretty common for them to need a prescription or an over the counter medicine. Usually, we have plenty on hand, so that doesn’t concern me too much. But one element of World War Z creeped us out: albuterol. Pitt and family have to stop at a store that is being looted to look for albuterol for their asthmatic daughter. When we watched this movie, the pandemic panic had just begun, so empty store shelves were certainly on our mind. But what was truly eerie is that I had to go out and get a prescription for albuterol that same day.

At the mention of albuterol I had a premonition. If a zombie outbreak ever occurred, it wouldn’t be the zombies that got me. I would probably get gunned down by a looter at CVS. With my dying breath, I would try to tell the looter, “I just wanted albuterol. You can have all the fun and addictive stuff. Why the fuck isn’t this stuff over the counter, anyway? (Death rattle.)”

The Best and the Worst Time to Watch This Movie.

Most of us are trying to watch things to distract us from the current situation, which explains the popularity of shows like Love Is Blind and Tiger King at the moment. But there’s also a desire to watch movies and shows that mirror the current situation. I can’t speak to anyone else’s reason for watching such material, but for me it’s twofold. First, I want to see how accurate the film is at predicting the world’s reaction. Second, I want to be able to say, “Hey, at least it’s not as bad as this...yet.” 

As for the accuracy of World War Z, it feels very realistic, mainly because both the zombie outbreak of the film and the coronavirus of our unfortunate reality strike relatively quickly. On top of that, both viruses are new enough that doctors still need to study them to find a cure or treatment. Much like Brad Pitt, we’re learning about this thing as it happens.

World War Z takes its title literally when it comes to learning about the virus. Pitt travels the globe trying to track down the source and learn how other countries are handling the outbreak. Just like the real virus, the origins are Asian, but aside from that hard facts about it are hard to come by. Stories and rumors are aplenty while hard facts take much longer to prove. In the film, it’s revealed that North Korea is surviving it because the teeth of the entire population were removed, giving them no way to transmit the virus. Whether or not this is true is never proven, but it’s similar to conspiracy theories people have about information from countries like North Korea regarding the coronavirus, with many people claiming that, at best, they aren’t reporting true numbers in their country and, at worst, they’re just killing everyone with symptoms. 

Pitt ends up in Israel for a bit because they seem to have been more prepared than most. This is similar to us looking to other countries with smaller outbreaks and asking, “What are they doing that we’re not?” And Israel’s quick building of a massive wall immediately reminded me of the image of countless machines in China hastily building virus hospitals in a matter of days. 

It’s revealed that walls and any other physical barriers won’t stop the virus; only medicine and science can do that. In that case, World War Z is uplifting as they figure out a way to combat the virus pretty quickly. Unfortunately for us, developing a safe treatment for a new virus can take over a year even when all hands are on deck, and it’s given top priority. In that way, World War Z made me feel worse about our situation because no quick fix is going to be revealed. 

But what made me feel the worst about everything was that grocery store near the beginning. People lost their fucking minds, but there were zombies! We hear that we need to stay inside as much as possible and that some basketball games are canceled, and we buy up everything like it’s the zombie apocalypse, and their weakness is reveled to be toilet paper. Sure, our stores aren’t as bad as the one in World War Z, but there is plenty of footage out there of people fighting over resources in stores and of people buying way more than they could possibly ever need while leaving nothing for others.

What’s most terrifying is that I understand what people are doing. We didn’t buy a garage full of toilet paper or a freezer full of meat or a cart full of eggs (why?!), but we did want to stock up on formula for our baby. We didn’t go nuts, but we got enough for a few months. I didn’t fight anyone for any of it, and I didn’t take the whole supply from a store. But I started to wonder what I was capable of if there was a shortage. Would I buy ten containers while others who needed it too looked on? Would I physically fight someone for a container? I hate to admit it, but in the right scenario, I think I would (though I’d probably get my ass kicked in the fight scenario). My mentality is that my kid is going to eat before yours. That said, we’ve remained calm and only bought what we might need for a few months. It would take extreme circumstances for me to take something that someone else also needed. Unfortunately for humanity, a lot of people get to that point preemptively. And it only takes one moron buying ten jumbo boxes of diapers to make sane people think, “Oh shit, I wasn’t going to buy that much, but I better now because it’s all going to be gone soon.” And the psycho domino effect ensues.

Overall, I felt better about our current situation after watching World War Z, but it did make me ruminate on the selfish survival instincts humans have and how having children amplifies those instincts. The film mostly made me thankful because if the proposition of staying home as a preventative measure prompted the behavior we’ve seen so far, how would all these crazy people react if something truly fucked up like a zombie apocalypse happened? I hope, for my children’s sake, we never find out.

Why Do I Own This?

I own a lot of zombie movies, so that’s the main reason why. If this movie came out today, I probably would not buy it. I would only buy it if they did a “Snyder Cut” situation where they go back and finish the original Russia ending and release that, but that will never happen.

Random Thoughts

"Mother Nature is a serial killer."

North Korea gets it! No teeth, no bite.

I like the main theme used for the film. It just feels like zombie music to me for some reason.

Could it be that Brad Pitt is just bad luck? Because everywhere he goes turns to shit.

Israel falls because of music. It's a reverse Mars Attacks! situation.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

"Unforgiven" - "Deserve's Got Nothing to Do With It."


I was going to write about Unforgiven a few months back when I was covering one western a month, but I got a bit tired of writing about westerns and shelved it. Then a few weeks ago my friend Robie Malcomson asked me to be on his philosophy podcast, Knowing You Know Nothing, to discuss Unforgiven. I figured if I was going to rewatch the movie and prep for the podcast, then I should write an article about it, as well. The podcast we recorded is more focused than this article, so definitely give it a listen for a more philosophical discussion of the film (though we do talk about it in regards to westerns, too). This article will have a little crossover with the podcast, but the podcast was a much more collaborative discussion of the film whereas this article is all my own rambling thoughts. I hope you enjoy both.

The Crown Jewel of Revisionist Westerns.

I’m not going to get into a “history of the western” thing here because I’ve done it before plenty of times. Most of my favorite westerns are considered “revisionist” westerns, which is to say they aren’t like the old John Wayne movies. I do like more traditional westerns (Open Range, Tombstone, most of Clint Eastwood’s early work, etc.[though some would claim that these are revisionist too, but I consider them more traditional]), but in general I gravitate more towards films like The Proposition, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Unforgiven is the crown jewel of revisionist westerns for me. This film was Clint Eastwood completing his western career by revisiting the genre to turn it on its head. This was a film that acknowledged death, fear, and realism in a genre that rarely does in a meaningful way. Most importantly, it presented a real world in which there are no heroes and villains. There are just people that do things, and it’s much more random than any of us are comfortable admitting. Okay, this is getting way too vague; let me get into some specifics.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Unforgiven is the character of Will Munny. He is essentially an old version of one of Eastwood’s past characters, though more evil than a typical Eastwood “hero.” Will was apparently a drunken maniac who mistreated animals and killed anyone, including women and children. In most westerns, a character like this wouldn’t make it to old age. So in many ways, Unforgiven is about what would happen to a western villain if he mellowed out in old age. 

Will Munny is openly ashamed of his past. He constantly tells everyone that he isn’t like he used to be anymore, mainly thanks to his departed wife. Will is constantly being reminded by those around him, mainly the Schofield Kid and Ned, about all the terrible shit he did in the past. But it makes him visibly uncomfortable to talk about it, and when does, it’s only to claim he’s not like that anymore. 

But Will isn’t just a regretful man. He’s actually more of a reluctant bad guy. How many movies have we seen, especially superhero movies, in which the hero has a skill he/she does not want to use and spends most of the movie swearing off that life but ultimately ends up embracing who they really are? I fucking hate that character arc at this point because it’s so common. Oh really, the Hulk is done being the Hulk? Batman is done being Batman? Wolverine isn’t taking the claws out anymore? Give me a fucking break. But this arc is actually compelling in Unforgiven for multiple reasons.

First off, Will is not a hero, and he’s not out to do good deeds. What always annoys me about reluctant superheroes is that they are just being selfish. I get that it adds to their character, and sacrificing your regular life to be a hero would be a tough choice, but they’re still fucking superheroes. I don’t feel bad or care if Bruce Banner doesn’t want to turn huge and green, just do it and help people out, you fucking loser. With Will, it makes sense that he wouldn’t want to go back down that road. He thinks he’s a changed man, and much like how he doesn’t want to drink whiskey anymore, he’s afraid that one step down that road will lead him right back where he was.

Secondly, it’s not nearly as black and white as most reluctant heroes’ situations. Will is going to do something “bad” no matter what. He’s going to go kill two men. Sure, he convinces himself that they are monsters and that they mutilated a woman, but he’s still going to kill people. (Not to mention that Delilah is not nearly as bad as the stories claim, but I’ll get to that more in the next section). Will seems to believe that as long as he doesn’t drink whiskey, he can dip his toes back into the murder for hire game without completely reverting back to his old ways. And he’s right. He and the Kid kill the two cowboys, and that’s that for him, until he finds out that Little Bill killed Ned.

Once he finds out about Ned, Will starts drinking again. Now he’s diving headfirst back into his old ways because he’s pissed off, and he wants to be the old Will. While the film doesn’t make anyone a complete hero or villain (although Little Bill is pretty close to being a straight up villain), I still find myself thinking, “Fuck yeah!” when he grabs that bottle of whiskey from the Kid. 

Perhaps I’m not supposed to react that way, especially since the movie spends so much time ruminating on death. But this is where Saul Rubinek’s character comes into play. He is definitely going to write about the event, and he’s most likely going to embellish it to make it more palatable. So while Will and the Kid may actually grapple with the deaths they cause, the writer is there to continue the cycle of trivializing death in the interest of profit and entertainment, and if that’s not an indictment of the western genre, I don’t know what is.

While Will is the main character of this film, death is the focus. You typically do not see death presented as it is in Unforgiven, and you definitely don’t have scenes in which it’s discussed so much. While a lot of characters die quickly, there are a few slow moments in the film that are prolonged for a reason. The death of the more innocent of the two cowboys, Davey, is the most important. 

After Will shoots Davey (he had to take the gun from Ned, who could not bring himself to do it, which is another rare moment for a western), Davey slowly dies. His age, pain, and fear make this death much more real than a typical western death. He cries out and is generally terrified of dying. It’s realistic, and it’s unsettling. This is important because you can have characters talk about death all you want, but if it’s not presented in a real manner, it’s just talk. Because of Davey’s death, Will and the Kid’s conversation later on holds much more weight.

Aside from having some great quotes, Will’s discussion of killing with the Kid is truly deep. The Kid is clearly not cut out for it, and Will is morosely talking about the power of it. You’re not just ending a life, you’re taking away their future, as well. The Kid didn’t think he would feel this way about it. He thought, like in the stories he has undoubtedly read, it would be simple and exciting. Instead, in reality, he shot a guy in an outhouse, and he feels horrible about it. Will, the seasoned veteran, has come to terms with this long ago, but that doesn’t mean he’s at peace.

We know that Will is still tortured because of his own brush with death. When he thinks he’s dying, he talks about being scared and seeing dead people. He is scared of what is going to happen to him after he dies because he’s done so many terrible things. Will can handle killing better than the Kid and Ned, but that doesn’t mean all the killing hasn’t affected him. Will fears for his soul, and if there is judgment after this life, he’s right to fear for it. For Will, killing is not only about taking away someone else’s life, it’s also about condemning your own soul. He may be able to move on in this life (and apparently prosper in dry goods, if the epilogue is to be believed), but he knows he will ultimately pay for what he’s done. And that’s what makes Unforgiven so amazing. In this western, everyone gets what’s coming to them, eventually.

Deserve’s Got Nothing to Do With It.”

The podcast episode I did covers the theme of justice in Unforgiven in plenty of detail, but I still want to cover it a bit in this article, as well. The above quote sums up the movie for me. Death and killing at any time, but especially in the old west is more random and chaotic than any of us would like to admit. Good, bad, or in between, people just die. Someone might be drunk during a gunfight. Someone might freeze up. A gun might misfire. And someone who doesn’t “deserve” to die will die. 

The line said to Little Bill before he is killed applies to much more than just his death. In fact, it applies probably the least to him. Aside from being a representative of the law, Little Bill is not a good person. And some people (Will, certainly) could argue that Bill does deserve to die because of what he did to Ned. But the idea of someone deserving something is more interesting when you look beyond Bill.

The whole plot is the result of a group of prostitutes seeking justice for a woman getting cut up by a cowboy. When they are treated as equals to horses and essentially property, they (mainly Alice) decide to take matters into their own hands. Justice has not been served in their eyes. And the cowboys deserve to die.

But do they? Davey certainly doesn’t as he was hardly a participant in the cutting. And the other cowboy doesn’t deserve to die, either, if we’re going with the eye for an eye type of justice. Delilah does not look that bad after her cuts heal, and she doesn’t seem to want the same “justice” that Alice wants. The cowboys do not deserve to die (they deserve more punishment than giving up some ponies, for sure, but a death sentence seems extreme to me), but like Will says, that has nothing to do with it. The cowboys have to die to make a statement. If you attack these prostitutes, you could end up dead.

In this way, the line is not just about how random life and death is, but it’s also about perspective. Little Bill’s idea of what he deserves is not the same as Will’s. The prostitutes think the cowboys deserve more than what they got. So deserve has nothing to with it and everything to do with it.  

The line is so great because it really applies to life in general. It’s essentially a better way of saying, “Life’s not fair.” (It’s also a better, and less dismissive, way of saying, “Shit happens.”) Talking about fairness always sounds a bit childish to me, so we need a better line as adults when life fucks us over, and “Deserve’s got nothing to with it” is a pretty damn good replacement. I’m not sure why, but that line makes me accept the randomness of life more than a line about fairness. 

Why Do I Own This?

I’m obviously a fan of westerns of all kinds, and this film is a must own. I’ve watched it at least twenty times.

Random Thoughts 

I always got the sense that Alice and Little Bill had a history together.

It's fucking crazy that Eastwood was playing a tired old man back in 1992.

The Schofield Kid can't even cuss realistically. Fuckin' poser...

"Hell, they even cut her teats." How is that worse than having your eyes cut out? 

"She ain't got no face left." Uh, her face really doesn't look that bad after it heals. I think Delilah would feel better about things if it wasn't for everyone talking about how worthless she is now.

So Will is only good at killing and shit when he's drunk? It's like that Family Guy episode where Peter can only play the piano when he's drunk.

Will's kids look very confused and troubled as he explains why animals hate him and are getting their revenge on him. Of course, how else do you react to such shit?

"You going to hump 'em a thousand times?!"

"I guess they got it comin'." Do they? Will's even adding to the story now: "Cut her fingers off…"

"I'll shoot for the queen, and you'll shoot for...well...whomever."

Man, Saul Rubinek gets on my fucking nerves in this movie.

"I just don't want to get killed for lack of shooting back."

"Shit and fried eggs." Is that a saying?

"I was tasting the soup two hours after I ate it." I always think of this line when I shave off my beard.

If you want to play the Unforgiven drinking game, just take a drink every time Ned says, “Jesus, Will.” Take a drink every time Will says, “I ain’t like that no more.” Take a drink every time Little Bill says, “Duck.” And take a shot every time someone says, “They cut her teats off.” You’ll be puking an hour in.

I always forget that there's a scene in this movie with Morgan Freeman asking Clint Eastwood about jacking it.

"Duck, I says."

"Innocent of what?"

I want a prequel. Unforgiven: The Drunken Misadventures of Will Munny.

"Well, you sure killed the hell out of that fella today."

God, I love how Will says, "A sign on him in front of Greely's!"

There should've been a Hugo Stiglitz-like guitar riff when Will takes his first drink of whiskey.

"You'd be William Munny, out of Missouri. Killer of women and children."
"That's right."

"I'll see you in hell, William Munny."


Friday, March 27, 2020

"The Quest" - The Unofficial Remake of "Bloodsport"

*SPOILERS ahead (but if you’ve seen Bloodsport, you've kind of already seen The Quest.

All this pandemic stuff has really stifled me when it comes to writing about movies. I had already been dragging my feet this month due to standard laziness (despite having notes and outlines prepped already for three articles). But when the pandemic stuff started to be treated with seriousness, it made my silly articles seem even less important than they were before (if that’s possible). I, like most of the country, have been much more preoccupied with the general safety of the nation, the safety of my family, the uncertainty about employment, and worrying about having enough food and baby supplies to endure a prolonged quarantine. Now that the reality of the situation has set in a bit more, I figured it was time to distract myself with writing. Because of that, I’m starting with a Jean-Claude Van Damme favorite of mine: The Quest. I know that the first article of each month is a JCVD movie, but this time the reason is twofold. Not only is this my first article of March, but it’s about a movie I enjoy because I find it relaxing in its simplicity, even if it is basically a Bloodsport remake set in a different time period. The Quest is a movie I can turn on and lose myself in, and that’s the perfect movie for me right now.

Bloodsport: The Prequel

One of the reasons I enjoy this movie is because it’s basically another Bloodsport. So much so that Frank Dux (the inspiration for Bloodsport) sued Van Damme over this, eventually getting a “Story by” credit because of a screenplay they wrote back in 1991. But it’s clear that if they were writing a movie, they were simply making Bloodsport again but set in the past. How the WGA saw this as reason enough to give him a writing credit is beyond me because I imagine this “screenplay” nothing more than Dux and Van Damme doing rails of coke and excitedly talking about all the different fighting styles in the film. But seriously, this is much more of a ripoff of Bloodsport (for which Dux did not receive a writing credit) than anything else. The writers of that film most likely had more of a case than Dux did (but what do I know?). 

The similarities to Bloodsport are obvious, but I still want to point them out. To begin with, Van Damme is on the run from the law. He’s not actively pursued this time around, but he’s still technically on the run.

Of course, the main similarity is that the film is centered around a secret martial arts tournament that you only get to fight in by invitation. All fighting styles are welcomed (much like how a guy like Jackson in Bloodsport is in the same tournament as Van Damme), and death in the ring is possible. 

Just like Frank Dux, Van Damme’s Christopher Dubois gains entry into the tournament even though he is not originally meant to fight in it. In both films, he is trained as an afterthought rather than as the main participant. In Bloodsport, he replaced the dead son of his trainer, and in The Quest, he takes the place of Maxie Devine (what a fucking perfect old-timey boxer name).

Speaking of Maxie Devine (played by James Remar who is really bringing it but simply cannot match the awesomeness of Donald Gibb), he basically becomes the Jackson of the movie after Dubois gains Maxie’s respect (by begrudgingly kicking his ass). After that, Maxie is Dubois’s loudest cheerleader in the crowd and is the unofficial color commentator, too (“He’s movin’ around like an animal!”). The only thing missing is Maxie getting a head injury from the Mongolian. Although Maxie does make some noises near the end of the film that could be evidence of some past head trauma.

Once again, the villain of the film is simply a villain because he’s good at fighting. Sure, both Chong Li and Khan (IMDb says this is his name, but I only knew him as the Mongolian dude) kill a guy in the ring, but it’s allowed! Don’t join the secret martial arts tournament if you’re afraid of dying in the ring. Khan is a little less excited about it murdering a guy, and he has even less lines than Chong Li. That is to say he literally has no lines in the film. We just know he’s the villain because of the slow motion shots of his uncaring face and menacing score that plays each time he’s on screen.

The last major similarity is the inclusion of a lady journalist love interest. In both films, she’s there to write about the tournament (in The Quest the story is so grand it becomes a book called...The Quest). But her real reason for existing is to give Van Damme a love interest. Kudos to The Quest, though, for not making her a victim at any point in the film. 

To be fair, there are also plenty of differences between Bloodsport and The Quest (some would argue that the main difference is that Bloodsport is actually good [I like them both, but I do prefer Bloodsport]). But The Quest is simply too similar to Bloodsport to ignore. And when Frank Dux ended up with a “Story by” credit, it was like confirmation that this was essentially another Bloodsport movie. But I don’t care. I still love this movie. Yes, it’s all very familiar, but a lot of times, that’s what I want from a Van Damme movie. Just give me some fight scenes and a simple plot. The Quest is comfort food cinema for me, and I don’t need comfort food to be all that original.

The Quest to Make the Most Epic Martial Arts Movie of All Time.

The Quest is admittedly derivative of one of Van Damme’s most beloved films, but it is also the most ambitious film Van Damme ever made. You can tell he was trying to make a grand, epic martial arts film, which is probably why he decided to direct it (though his directing prowess was called into question by Roger Moore in his book, and there are reports that the second unit director, Peter MacDonald, actually kept the film on track).

While The Quest didn’t lead to more films directed by Van Damme, you can still tell he was going for an old-fashioned epic style. The story spans decades (we get to see old man Van Damme!) and the globe and attempts to be about honor...or something. The Quest definitely fails to be an epic along the lines of Once Upon a Time in America, but I always appreciate someone swinging for the fences. 

From the music to the piracy to the golden dragon, The Quest tries to be something big and epic. But it’s only the superficial elements that are epic. The music and whatnot is just the wrapping paper. Underneath that, you just have a Van Damme movie. 

To be clear, I’m totally fine with having an epic-wrapped Van Damme movie. As I stated above, I’m not looking for a transcendent or grand experience when I watch a Van Damme movie. I want to see some fighting, a bit of humor, the splits, and at least one roundhouse kick. All that extra stuff doesn’t take away from the film, but there is one odd element that Van Damme used that is distracting: slow motion.

If this film is famous for anything in Van Damme’s filmography, it’s for its use of slow motion at seemingly random moments. Khan breaks a table: slow motion. Khan stares across the room: slow motion. A fight begins and the fighters get in their stances: slow motion. You get the idea. Slow motion is used in the expected places (like Van Damme’s amazing roundhouse kick), but it’s also used in nonsensical moments. I always chalked this up to Van Damme being the director and thinking that slow motion just makes shit better. But looking at it as a wannabe epic, I think this was Van Damme’s attempt to add weight to all these moments in the film.

But slow motion is mainly used to allow the viewer to see the detail in a complex scene, especially in a fight scene. But here it’s used during the boring parts of a fight. It just doesn’t make sense. And slow motion is not a hallmark of classic films or anything, either. I just think this was the only thing Van Damme could think of during post-production to attempt to make The Quest something more than it was. 

Van Damme just didn’t realize that a martial arts movie doesn’t have to be epic to be good. If the focus had been on making the fight scenes as good as possible, then maybe The Quest would be remembered as one of the better martial arts films. Instead, the focus was so much on having the film be presented as something it wasn’t that the most important aspect of it fell by the wayside. We don’t need old man Van Damme makeup. We don’t need cliché fighters from every country in the world. We don’t need this film to take place seventy years in the past. We don’t need a subplot about a mime raising street urchins. We just need good fight scenes. 

The Quest does have decent fight scenes, but aside from a badass roundhouse, nothing stands out. So instead of getting the epic film Van Damme intended, we get a simple forgettable film that’s great to watch when you want to shut your brain down for a while. That is actually a great accomplishment. When Van Damme goes for it, epic or not, the end result is always entertaining.

Why Do I Own This?

It’s a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.

Random Thoughts 

What bartender immediately assumes someone wants a cup of coffee? This dickhead deserves to be robbed.

The sound effects with the sumo wrestler are so fucking stupid.

I get why the cops are after him in the beginning. Who likes a juggling clown on stilts?

What is the backstory with Van Damme and all these street urchins?

These gangsters don't fuck around, bursting into a children's hangout guns blazing. 

Khao is a dick. He gives Van Damme shit for betraying him, but Van Damme was basically his slave. How can you blame him for looking for a way out?

I wish Maxie Devine was played by Conan O'Brien as his old timey boxer character from the episode of SNL that he hosted. "I'll baste your turkey!"

It's nice that the fighters from each country dressed as stereotypically as possible. I'm surprised the French dude didn't start his fight wearing a beret and holding a baguette. 

Van Damme won the heavyweight boxing belt in the weirdest way possible: ceded to him at a secret martial arts tournament.

So the Mongolian is the bad guy because he broke the table at the restaurant?

Sure, the Mongolian kills a guy later, but it's a secret martial arts tournament; traditionally, a few deaths are to be expected from such a tournament.

Lady journalist love interest wears some interesting headwear throughout the movie.

Do Spaniards really do the bullfight stance even when fighting humans?

I have to admit, when I first watched this I truly did not expect to see a zeppelin used to steal a golden dragon.

What is that noise Remar makes near the end of the last fight? "Hmmmmmeaaaaaah!"

I’ve always loved the roundhouse kick in this film. He’s basically doing the splits while doing a roundhouse. It’s the two Van Damme trademarks combined.

That wasn't much of an epilogue. And what happened with him and lady journalist? It just zooms in on her at the end without him saying a thing about her. And how was she in that group picture when she was the one who took it? Sure, the book is written by her, but he couldn't say what happened beyond her writing the story?