There are movies featuring Ninjitsu. There are movies feqaturing Gymnastics. But there is only one movie about Gymnastic Ninjistu and that movie is GYMKATA! Of all the movies I could pick only this one could be listed as my favorite bad movie. I mean the premise of the movie is not only the stupidest thing ever imagined, it is the stupidest thing ever imagined with a Hollywood budget. Seriously, some idiot thought combining gymnastics and martialarts to make a super deadly-form of fighting was a good enough idea to turn into a movie. A movie starring a former U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist no less. Look, movies about gymnastics don’t sell and movies about gymnastics starring ACTUAL GYMNASTS sell even less. I mean the fact that this and Mitch Gaylord’s American Anthem came out in the same year should speak volumes about how people do not want to see movies about gymnastics!
I mean let us take a more in depth look at Gymkata shall we?
“But James” I can already hear at least one of you saying, “Do we have to? I mean it is Gymkata and Gymkata SUCKS!”
While that is true, Gymkata does indeed suck, it is important to examine it to understand exactly why it sucks.
I mean does it suck in an ironic way?
Does it sucks in the ‘Worst Movie In A Great Actor’s Career’ way?
Well given that there is no major star in this movie the answer would be no to that as well.
No Gymkata sucks because it does the impossible, it takes a movie that features Ninjas and makes them uncool!
Look, there are certain rules of cinema. Rules like, everything is funny if you add a monkey or a penguin to it. Rules like, if you’re a female in a Blaxploitation you will end up sleeping with John Shaft. Mind you, John Shaft doesn’t even have to be in the movie but that girl is getting it from ‘The Black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks’. It is a rule of cinema and it should always be adhered to… ALWAYS!
Well Gymkata breaks one of the most important rules of cinema, that being “Ninjas make everything badass”. See in the movie Jonathan Cabot, played by Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Thomas, is recruited by the, I swear I can’t make this up, Special Intelligence Agency to enter the country of Parmistan and participate in an endurance race called ‘The Game’. First of all let’s get this out of the way first… PARMISTAN? I know how they came up with the name for this country and it involves a meatball sub with a certain cheese on it and a map with a dart in it, because there is no way anyone would just ‘imagine’ a country named Parmistan. If the name of the country wasn’t bad enough, The Game is even worse since it involves rounding up all the foreingers in the country and making them run a cross-country enduance race. The catch? The whole time they are being hunted by Parmistanian warriors. First of all, fuck this movie for making me have to think about what you would call someone from Parmistan. Second of all, if any Government Agency approached me and asked me to do this I’d tell them to fuck off. Did I mention that the S.I.A. is asking Cabot to do this because he who wins The Game gets one wish granted to them by the King Of Parmistan?
The S.I.A. wants Cabot’s wish to be a U.S. manned satelite monitoring station. Fuck it, why not? I mean it is 1985, we need that station to keep tabs on the Russkies right? So let’s make nice nice with the people of Parmistan, undermine their somewhat racist cultural sporting event and introduce them to the Big Mac. To sweeten the deal though, the S.I.A. informs our man Cabot that his father was sent to infiltrate The Game but was never heard from again. Cabot agress to take the mission, hoping he can… wait for it…. find some clue to his father’s whereabouts. Now call me crazy, sbut someone at S.I.A. headquarters probably read the mission dossier on this and flipped the fuck out. “We just recruited a fucking gymnast to run in The Game? FUCK! Get me Special Ops, we actually need to train this moron! Oh and tell the asshole who thought this idea up that he’s fucking fired!”.
So, realizing that a gymnast isn’t going to set the world of espionage ablaze, the S.I.A. sends Cabot for training with a ‘Martial Arts Master’ played by Conan Lee. From there it is time to learn the art of war from all the cultures of the world… all 2 of them! See Cabot learns from… again wait for it… a white guy and a Japanese guy. Because in the history of mankind the only countries to ever wage war successfully in the history of man have been The United States Of America and Japan. It is during all this training that Cabot develops the greatest Mrtial Art known to man… GYMKATA!
Finally deemd ‘worthy’ to take on the mission, Cabot is introduced to the Princess of Parmistan, Princess Rubali. Rubali then takes Cabot to the small nation of Karabal on the Caspian Sea, so they can sneak into Parmistan. Along the way they raid a terrorist training camp and Rubali gets taken hostage. Luckily, she has nothing to fear since Cabot is sole heir to art of… GYMKATA! With such an art at his disposal, Cabot is unbeatable and takes out the terrorist cell. With that out of the way he and Rubali are ready to sneak into Parmistan. Of course Cabot, being the world’s greatest gymnast turned super-spy, gets caught right away and put into The Game. It is here we are introduced to the King of Parmistan, The Kahn. The Kahn apparently as no other name. When he came out of the womb his mother just said “Fuck it, he is THE KAHN”. When he goes antiquing in the Berkshires and stays at “Mr & Mrs New Englander’s Bed & Breakfast” he just signs the regisstry as ‘T.Kahn’. Yes I know is another word for King but honestly, you just don’t go around calling yourself The Kahn unless you’ve recently escaped Arkham Asylum and plan to fight Batman!
Anyway, The Kahn puts Cabot in The Game and we get introduced to an actual antagonist in the form of The Kahn’s right hand man Zamir. Now, don’t tell anyone this but Zamir is totally evil and planning to overthrow The Kahn. In fact, Zamir somehow knew that the S.I.A. was planning this mission and sent a bunch of idiots to try and kill Cabot earlier in the film. Of course Zamir, just happens to be one of the hunters in The Game and feels it is his duty to kill Cabot, y’know for ethnic purity and all.
Anyway shit happens, the other players in the game all get killed and Zamir has everyone chasing Cabot because he is, well the white devil. The people of Parmistan finally have the cracker where they want him when a lone Parmistanian warrior saves Cabot and reveals himself to be… wait for it… a little longer this time…
CABOT’S FATHER (GASP!)!
Cabot’s Dad covers his whitebread son’s escape from Zamir. Zamir determines that Cabot Sr. doing that wasn’t quite cricket, shoots Dad with an arrow. Cabot then gets his horse to jump an impossible gorge. Zamir’s band of… y’know I can’t figure out what Zamir’s guys are. Are his followers like Islamic Jihadists or something? I mean they dress like Ninjas but they are in Parmistan and its cultural heritage is… well, hunting white gymnasts apparently. I mean they are near the Caspian Sea but that tells us fuck all about the ancient ways of Parmistanian culture. Hey, maybe the Mormons had it wrong! Maybe Parmistan is the lost 13th tribe of Israel! It doesn’t explain the Ninja outfits though…
Anyway, Princess Rubali, remember her? Yeah she convinces The Kahn that Zamir is an evil fuckwad and must be stopped. So the Kahn moves into action, gets the people who were hunting Cabot to turn on Zamir and thus avoid a bloody civil war. Now to top it all of The Game is still going on and Cabot, being the only survivor, rides up on his horse with with his new pincushion… er.. that is Father in tow. Cabot wins The Game, there is peace in Parmistan and apparently, the movie lets us know that in 1985 the first U.S. Satelite Monitoring Station went active in Parmistan. Of course in a country where they play ‘Let’s hunt Whitey’ once a year, putting a U.S. Statelite Station is just a plain bad idea.
There you have it, that is Gymkata. Look I’m not saying it is a bad movie. No sir, I’m not saying that at all… no wait… YES I AM! Look, for some reason in the 80’s, whenever Olympic Fever would grip the U.S. of A, some Gymnast becomes the poster-child for a marketing idea. Can you imagine what would’ve happened if Mary Lou Retton made Gymkata?
Wait bad example, I’d actually pay to see Mary Lou Retton go Gymkata crazy on someone and then fuck Zamir up with a box of Wheaties. Shit, Hollywood really missed out on Mary Lou Retton. She could’ve been the next Seagal. No, I don’t mean crazy and delusional about being a re-incarnated Buddha! Given Steven Seagal’s size these days, I’d say he ATE all the other Buddhas in a past life and its coming back to haunt him. Mary Lou could’ve made Gymkata and then made a swarm of bad direct to video movies. She could’ve had Cynthia Rothrock’s career!
I’ve actually got nothing bad to say about Kurt Thomas. As a non-actor in movie that really isn’t a tour de force for any one actor, he does ok. I mean Gymkata is what it is. Still, it COULD’VE BEEN more! Can you imagine if some Hong Kong studiuo got involved in this pile of ferret shit of a movie? My lord, the epic kung-fu fight on parallel bars alone would made make weep tears of joy. 2 Chinese guys going nuts on pommel-horses trying to kick the other off would be… well ok it would suck. I mean it doesn’t matter who could’ve been involved, it is still Gymkata! Be glad there is only one. I mean this could’ve gone all American Ninja and had more movies than any bad ranchise has the right to have. We could have ended up with Gymkata 2: Pommel Horse Of Pain followed by Gymkata 3: Floor Routine Of Death. God forbidwe end up with enough movies to give us a TV series!
Still between this and the other Gymnastics themed movie of 1985, Americna Anthem, Gymkata comes up as the lesser of the two. “Why is that James?” I can hea the same person from before asking me, “We thought you still kinda liked Gymkata?”
Because as much as American Anthem sucked balls, and make no mistake American Anthem sucked hard, that movie still had Janet Jones in it. Janet Jones in a one-piece and THAT my friends beats Gymkata ANYDAY!