The Quest is a 1996 American martial arts film directed by Jean-Claude Van Damme in his directorial debut, who also starred in the film. The film co-stars Roger Moore, James Remar and Janet Gunn. The film was released in the United States on April 26, 1996. The plot revolves around an international martial arts tournament. Claims by Frank Dux that it was a rework of a script Frank Dux wrote entitled "Enter the New Dragon: The Kumite", which was rejected by a jury.
Late night in a bar in the present day, an old man enters and awaits service. Not long after, a group of thugs arrive and attempt to rob the till. The old man defeats them easily one by one with hand-to-hand combat. Amazed, the bartender asks how he learned to fight. The old man replies "it was long ago..."
Christopher Dubois (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is a pickpocket in his mid-twenties living in 1925 New York. Orphaned as a child, Dubois looks after a large group of young orphans by performing cons and stealing. After stealing a large sum of money from a group of gangsters, Dubois and the children are found by the gangsters. Dubois is able to subdue the gangsters, but the struggle draws the attention of the police. After promising to return to the children, Dubois escapes the police by stowing away on a boat. He is found out by the crew and imprisoned by gun smugglers and pirates and forced into physical labor. Eventually, the crew decides Dubois is no longer needed, but before he can be killed, the pirate ship is attacked and boarded by a mercenary Englishman, Lord Edgar Dobbs (Roger Moore). After saving each other's lives, Dobbs agrees to help Dubois return home, but deceives him and sells Dubois into slavery on an island near Siam, where Dubois is trained in Muay Thai fighting.
After six months, Dobbs and his partner Harri Smythe (Jack McGee) find Dubois fighting in a Muay Thai match and see that he has become a skilled fighter. Dobbs later assists (and exploits) Dubois, buying his freedom so the now-expert fighter can represent the U.S in a Kumite like tournament called the Ghang-gheng, held in the Lost City of Tibet, where representatives of Germany, Soviet Union, Scotland, Spain, Turkey, Brazil, Korea, Siam, Greece, France, China, Japan, Okinawa, Africa, and Mongolia fight in elimination bouts, and the winner of the tournament receives a valuable statue, the Golden Dragon. Along for the journey are American reporter Carrie Newton (Janet Gunn) and heavyweight boxing champion Maxie Devine (James Remar).
Dubois ultimately wins the tournament by defeating the representative of Mongolia and he is given a medal and proclaimed the greatest fighter, but does not accept the Golden Dragon. Instead he trades it for the lives of Dobbs and his comrade Harri, who were sentenced to death for trying to steal the Golden Dragon.
Back in the bar, Dubois explains he returned to New York and helped the children get off the streets. Ultimately, things turned out for the best. Devine helped to train many great fighters, while Dobbs and Harri opened a trading post deep in the Amazon. In the final scene, a book closes, revealing its title, 'The Quest', and that it was written by Carrie Newton.