Gymnastics and martial arts, sounds like the perfect mix. You could be doing a back flip and kick some dude in the cherries, or maybe do some crazy cartwheel and become a windmill of kicks and punches. Maybe you could even be a world champion gymnast with a mullet and become the best hope for the SIA (the Special Intelligence Agency, of course) to compete in a deadly game that could influence the fate of the world! Maybe not, but it makes for an interesting if not comical film by acclaimed martial arts film director Robert Clouse, 1985’s GYMKATA!
Gymkata stars Kurt Thomas (world champion gymnast) as John Cabot who is – what else – a world championship gymnast, who just finished one of the biggest gymnastics meets of his life. As he’s walking off of the floor, he’s found out that his father, a SIA operative, has gone missing in the tiny country of Parmistan. Parmistan is a small nation located near Turkey, but surprisingly is inhabited by white people, who speak perfect english, and happens to be the perfect location for the United States to use as a location for it’s “Star Wars” program which would intercept nuclear missiles sent from the Soviet Union. John is informed that his father has gone missing while undercover in the nation, and that he was competing in a ancient game known as “The Game”. You see, the winner of this “Game” will be granted one wish, and John’s father’s wish would be to make them allow the US to use the country for this star wars program.
On the other side of the coin is the treacherous Zamir (Richard Norton), the commander of the army of Parmistan, who is trying to overthrow the king. He believes that if he can keep the competitors from finishing “The Game” that he will be able to seize control of the nation, and he will be able to sell it to the highest bidder. Of course, they need John to help compete in the game, because he is a gifted athlete that will have the best chance of finishing the game. John agrees with absolutely no hesitation and doesn’t seem to recognize this game as a challenge. He’s then trained to walk up stairs on his hands, and to watch the princess of Parmistan, (who tries to stab him with every opportunity) as she will be guiding him to her native country.
What follows is a ridiculous display of “martial arts” and gymnastics, and a whole lot of running around the same 3 streets in some town in Turkey, inhabited solely by white people with turbans and fez hats. After an attack, the princess is kidnapped and recovered by John, and nearly gets captured when the people who are supposed to be helping him turn out to be double agents. Thanks to the SIA, he and the princess escape unharmed and make their way to Parmistan, so that John and other competitors from around the globe may try their hand at the game. John will have to get down and dirty though, as the princess returns to Parmistan, it is arranged that she will marry the scoundrel Zamir, and now John has to not only finish the game but he has to rescue the princess from the claws of Zamir as well.
If you haven’t been able to tell from the preceding paragraphs, Gymkata is pretty damned ridiculous from concept to execution. Kurt Thomas does a decent job of fighting, and his acting isn’t horrible for a person who’s an athlete and not an actor. The fights really aren’t even that bad, but unfortunately they try to push the whole gymnastics element too much. This is really evident when in the middle of this Turkish town, there’s a parallel bar in between buildings, so Thomas can do flips on and use it to beat up his opponents. In another scene, there’s a stone pommel horse set up so that Thomas can display his technique, and take out any bad guys who happen to stand in a 5 foot radius of this thing. If this were real, and I were one of these dudes, I’d just motion for him to come closer and then pound the crap out of him. Richard Norton does another great job as the bad dude this time. He’s not in the movie too often, considering he’s billed third on the credits.
A few other things to note: I thought if this country was near Turkey, most of the people wouldn’t be blonde haired. This includes the King of Parmistan, or as he’s known in this movie the Kahn (Buck Kartalian), who sports a wicked combover. Some of the makeup in this movie is plain horrible. It seems like they got the fakest beards and the rattiest wigs they could find in some segments. Also, Zamir’s army all wear ninja outfits, but none of them are ninjas, they’re just dead eye archers who can split each others arrows as they shoot them into people’s backs.
The pacing of the film wasn’t bad, until a point in the game where they go to the village of the crazies (where the country sends it’s criminally insane). I thought I was going to go insane myself from watching this section. It drags on and on for about 15 minutes, and at one point the entire scene is in slow motion of John holding on in between two building for dear life. I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed if you watch this movie and fast forward that part until you get to the end of the scene. Don’t fast forward too much though, or you’ll miss the suprise twist! Unintentionally hilarious, and a decent martial arts/action film to boot, Gymkata gets 2.5 back flipping kicks to the groin out of 5