JCVD not only stars in this film, but he co-wrote and directed it. Of course, he also had to go to court to battle former Bloodsport pal and noted con man Frank Dux, who claimed that he wrote this movie as Enter the New Dragon: The Kumite, but a jury rejected those claims.
In the first ten minutes of the movie, we see Van Damme as an old man who can still decimate gang members with his cane and as a clown who does parkour years before anyone knew what that was. Truly, this is the most Van Damme of all Van Damme films.
Christopher Dubois (Van Damme) is a pickpocket in mid-1920’s New York City, stealing from the mob to take care of orphans. He must run away — promising to come back — and stows away on a boat of smugglers which is eventually boarded by the ship of Lord Edgar Dobbs (Roger Moore, who seems to be having the time of his life as always).
After saving one another’s lives, Dobbs seems like he’s going to help our hero get home, but sells him into slavery where he’s trained in Muay Thai. After six months, Dobbs and his partner Harri Smythe (character actor Jack McGee, who got into acting via being a firefighter with his first role being in Turk 182) learn that Dubois has become a great fighter.
Interestingly enough, McGee repeatedly drew the ire of Van Damme by loudly farting at the end of each take. Sounds like a party!
After paying for his freedom, Dobbs brings our hero to a fight — not unlike Kumite — called Ghang-gheng. Held in the Lost City of Tibet, it’s where fighters from nearly every nation and fighting style in the wold battle for the Golden Dragon.
American reporter Carrie Newton (Janet Gunn from USA’s Silk Stalkings) and heavyweight boxing champion Maxie Devine (James Remar, Ajax from The Warriors and Raiden from Mortal Kombat: Annihilation) are also there to watch. During the fight, Dobbs and Harri try to steal the dragon and are sentenced to death, but Dubois wins the entire tournament, eventually besting Mongolia’s Khan (Abdel Qissi, brother of Michael who has appeared in many of Van Damme’s films) in the finals. He trades his win for the life of the two convicted men.
Back at the bar where it all started, we learn that Dubois went back to help the orphans, Dobbs and Harri went on to further adventures and Devine ending up being a great trainer. The movie closes on a book called The Quest, written by — you guessed it — reporter Carrie Newton.
This is a movie packed with fights left and right. Japan is represented by former pro wrestler and the youngest rikidozan ever, Koji Kitao. I met him once on a pro wrestling show we were on together, moments before another American wrestler insulted him by speaking pidgeon Engrish, ending up getting his shoulder torn clean out of the socket.
Pjeter Malota, who often plays in Van Damme films, is the Spanish fighter than JCVD bests in the second round. Jen Sung, who was recently on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. plays the Siamese fighter, Phang. Brick Bronsky — who directed and acting in Masked Mutilator, which Severin/InterVision just re-released — is the Russian competitor. And Stefanos Miltsakakis, who would fight JCVD in five movies and appear as Frankenstein’s Monster in Waxwork II: Lost in Time, is the Greek fighter. With a name like that, what other team could he be on?
Despite Sir Roger Moore’s seeming enthusiasm for his role, he claimed that it was the least favorite of his films. In his autobiography My Word is My Bond, he said that the movie was a poorly prepared and disorganized mess that was continually running out of money. He minces no words about how he felt about Van Damme and producer Moshe Diamant, while crediting Second Unit Director Peter MacDonald, who directed Rambo III, for making the film a success.