Reviewed by Reed Hubbard
Rating: 9 Beans
don’t guess you can do much in the field of gymnastics after you win the Olympics. You get a gold medal, a Wheaties box, a few months of notoriety, then…you’ve gotta go to work, just like the rest of us. There’s no Professional Gymnastics League (although ESPN2 would show it if there were), so what do you do if you’re a mid-20’s, fairly good-looking Olympic gymnast? You make the logical jump to the movies! This is what Kurt Thomas did in 1985, and the ridiculously stupid “Gymkata” is the result.
Now, Thomas is not alone. Of that 1984 crew, Bart Conner, Mitch Gaylord, Mary Lou Retton, and Julianne McNamara have all tried their hand at acting, be it a self-parodying cameo (Retton in “Scrooged”) or a cheesy soft-core pseudo-porn thriller (Gaylord in “Sexual Outlaws”). However, none of these has been so contrived, so silly, or so patronizingly tied to the fervor of the ’84 games as Thomas’ sole foray into the movies. I’m just glad he didn’t make another picture.
In case you didn’t know, gymkata is a new form of martial arts, combining “the skill of gymnastics, the kill of karate,” as the film’s tag line reads. The problem with gymkata is that you can only do it in certain places, like an alley that has a gymnastics bar across it or a town square with a stone pommel horse in the center. It also requires unusually cooperative opponents, like a guy who will run down the alley and stop directly below the bar so the gymkata-er, who is in the middle of a giant loop, can swing down to kick him in the face.
The movie starts with Thomas, in a huge stretch as an actor, playing Olympic gymnast Jonathan Cabot. After he wins his medal, the government approaches Cabot to learn gymkata. Here’s the setup. There’s this country over in Asia somewhere called Parmistan (obviously known for their grated cheese). Well, for some mysterious reason, Parmistan is the perfect location for a US Star Wars earth station. Now other countries want the location, too, but the only way the Parmistanian government will allow such a thing is through the playing of an idiotic game, which is basically a marine corps obstacle course with archers on horseback chasing the runners. In fact, Jonathan’s daddy was killed on the course trying to win the game while Cabot was on the parallel bars in the Olympics. Now that’s a supportive parent! Cabot starts training with a black guy, a Chinese guy, and the beautiful daughter of the Parmistanian Khan.
After days of training, Cabot and the Khan’s daughter head to Karabal – on the Caspian Sea where they meet up with their contact. He explains that firearms are outlawed in Parmistan and shows him an array of weapons a la Q of James Bond fame. Cabot never uses them, because he’s got gymkata, but why even use that? If this is a dinky country in Asia with no modern weapons, let’s just invade! You know the USSR would’ve done that. Heck, the Boy Scouts could knock Parmistan over! Well, anyway, Cabot goes walking through the market where several guys jump him. He beats them all up, only to find the Khan’s daughter kidnapped. Then it turns out the Karabal – on the Caspian Sea contact is dirty as well. Thank God for the CIA! An undercover agent saves Jonathan just the guy from Karabal – on the Caspian Sea is about to plug him.
After this, it’s off to Parmistan, where everyone speaks English save one word. Apparently the only word surviving from the ancient Parmistanian tongue is “yakmalla!” It must have a lot of different meanings because the Khan says it over and over. I guess it’s kind of like “aloha” in Hawaiian. Anyway, all the international contestants show up, including some jerk named Thor. The only memorable part of the game is the Village of the Damned – a town full of insane people that contains the aforementioned stone pommel horse. It is here that Cabot gets to show off some cool gymkata moves on the horse while the nutcases stand around, attacking him one at a time. Then, suddenly, everything goes into slow motion. What? Cabot slowly runs down a dead end alley while the crazies slowly chase him. It is there that a Parmistanian guard slowly helps him. The film speeds up again and the guard lifts his hood. It’s Daddy Cabot! He wasn’t really dead, he was just pretending! Jonathan heads off to win the game, but Thor shows up, so Cabot gymkatas him to death and the US gets its earth station! Hip, hip yakmalla!
This one is so bad it’s funny. You can spend a lot of time laughing over things like the effort to stuff as many gymnastic moves in the movie as possible. For example, Jonathan tries to talk to the Khan’s daughter who won’t speak, so he has a mock conversation with her. Instead of just turning around to speak her lines, he does some sort of full-turn-half-twist gymnastic flip. “How are you?” Gymnastic flip. “Fine!” Gymnastic flip. On top of that, Thomas is one bad actor. In one scene that actually made it into the final cut, Kurt was obviously not on his mark, so he said half his line, paused for two seconds as he walked to the right spot, and finished his sentence. This whole movie is like a 90-minute joke.
If you like bad movies, this one’s for you. Even the fighting is bad. Jackie Chan could whip everyone in this movie without breaking a sweat. I was checking Amazon.com the other day, and this movie is for sale for only $79.99. What a deal! If they sell a bunch of them, be looking for a sequel. Pat Morita and Kerri Strug starring in “The Next Gymkata Kid.” Yakmalla!
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