Gymkata. It's an imaginary martial arts combination of gymnastics and karate. It's also this "so bad, it's good" crappy little action cheapie from the director of Enter The Dragon that stars former Olympian Kurt Thomas vying for movie stardom.
Thomas plays Jonathan Cabot, who is obviously a gymnast as we get to watch almost an entire routine from a low angle shot. Soon enough he's being recruited by the American government to go on a secret mission to the distant Middle Eastern country of Parmistan. Just how and why they'd want a gymnastics professional to do such a thing is never explained - so just roll with it.
Seems that this little mountain village is the perfect location for a satellite monitoring station and the U.S. wants to take control of it so they'll have an early warning system of any nuclear attacks by other countries (remember, the movie came out around the time of the Regan administration's "Star Wars" and the pointless 'communist threat' agenda).
But in order for them to do so, Jonathan has to take part in "The Game", which pits him against athletes from other countries who have to run an obstacle ridden course while being chased by the Khan (aka: king) of Parmistan's advisor Zamir (Australian karate expert Richard Norton who's the best thing here) and his men.
Gymkata is the kind of 80's action movie we just don't see anymore. It seems to be taking itself completely seriously while going from one ridiculous beat to the next. Hell, in the first twenty minutes of the movie there's the typical training montage, Jonathan and advisor Princess Rubali (Tetchie Agbayani) fall for each other (despite the fact she's constantly pulling knives on him and never talks to him), and we get to see our first hilariously bad fight sequence where Jonathan uses all sorts of tumbling routines and badly choreographed kicks to take down some baddies (try not to chuckle when one of them falls to the ground for no apparent reason giving Thomas' character time to somersault by and grab a wooden pallet to smash over his head).
This is a movie so utterly silly that it's hard not to enjoy how dumb it all is. Thomas is about as wooden as they come in the lead (and he rocks a sweet mullet to boot), the fights are edited quite badly with overdone sound effects and the entire thing is so cheap and goofy it's hard to believe it was released by a Hollywood studio - not so much, though, when you consider MGM's output of the time with such low-brow fare as Ice Pirates and Red Sonja (two movies I am proud to own on DVD as well).
Director Clouse has made a handful of decent martial arts movies in the past (the aforementioned Enter, China O'Brien and the underrated Black Belt Jones) but he seems to be putting forward minimal effort here. In fact, the only time the movie rises above being drably filmed is during the priceless "village of the crazies" sequence which offers the viewer Gymkata's rare bloody moments and almost cashes-in on the scenes potential to be creepy - it's one of the most talked about scenes in the movie for the film's cult following, but damned if it's not the best moment among all the cheesiness.
Offering lots of unintentional chuckles (mostly from the awkward fight scenes, including the "huh?" pommel horse moment) and about as chintzy as 80's action movies tended to come, Gymkata is the perfect distraction for fans of trash cinema. It's certainly not good, but it does keep you watching, moves quickly enough, and has an odd charm to it. (Chris Hartley, 1/29/07)
Directed By: Robert Clouse.
Written By: Charles Robert Carner.
Starring: Kurt Thomas, Tetchie Agbayani, Richard Norton, Edward Bell.
Warner - January 30, 2007
Picture Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen.
Picture Quality: While there's a few shimmers that pop-up from time to time, Gymkata looks surprisingly good on DVD. The colours are solid and the clarity above average and there's minimal grain as well. Warner actually gives an obscure catalogue title a decent transfer, something a lot of other studios don't seem to care too much about.
Extras: All we get here is a trailer, but it's a quite amusing one. There's also a trailer for the, seemingly pointless, direct-to-video sequel, Dukes Of Hazzard: The Beginning.