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The best thing about "Gymkata" is that it takes itself very seriously.
Actual men and women worked on this film with no intention of creating a
hysterically abominable failure. Yet, despite a premise that fails to
produce anything beyond derisive laughter, the project somehow landed
Highlights include: The Khan of Parmistan, a man who looks like Albert Einstein with Carl Levin's comb-over. "The Town of the Crazies," a village of criminally insane people. A man who severs his own hand for no apparent reason in the aforementioned town. A man (also in that town) who wears a cloak with the back cut out to reveal his buttocks. The oft-repeated location, "Karabal, on the Caspian Sea." The title card that lets us know when we've arrived at "Karabal, on the Caspian Sea." Princess Rubali and her odd fascination with cutlery. A man named "Thorg," who has been admired by the hero "since Munich." An actual line of dialogue that refers to "a nightmare in hell." The five punch/kick sound effects that get recycled beyond believability. A character who presumably fell to his death in a gaping, barren canyon only to have his fall "broken by some trees." The random placement of gymnastics apparatuses. The complete lack of resolution to numerous dangling plot points. Kurt Thomas's wardrobe and haircut. The men working at "The Salt Mines," who just poke a large pile of refined salt with hoes. Also, we get the privilege of seeing a shadowy government agent push away a gymnastics groupie who tries to get too close to a post-dismount Kurt Thomas.
If you happen across this movie, you must watch it. "Gymkata" stands as an example of what happens when no one offers a dissenting opinion anywhere in the filmmaking process. This is a technique that was later revealed in Joel Schumacher's "Batman & Robin."
"Gymkata" fulfills every expectation you may have of a film combining gymnastics and ninjitsu. Plenty of gymnastics, plenty of ninjitsu. See it with a friend and enjoy its many failures. All hail "Gymkata!"
I met Kurt Thomas at a gymnastics even in 1992. First thing I said to him
was "Gymkata?" It is probably not difficult to imagine the look that came
over the poor man's face at that point.
But I love Gymkata. We used to watch it for its tremendous entertainment value as an all-time great "bad" movie. My own personal favorite parts are the pommel horse in the medieval lunatic asylum, the guy saying "there is some anti-American sentiment going around here" immediately before being shot with an arrow, and of course the "Yak-MALLA!" war cry of "Parmistan." Oh, yeah, the four or five repetitions of "Karabal, on the Caspian Sea" before the place is shown with just that as the caption on the screen.
JP Marat L'Ami du Peuple
Seriously, this movie is completely under appreciated as a mid-80's cult classic. It's absurd plot and wooden performances are what make the film so likeable. If you watch "Gymkata" expecting to see a solid performance by an Olympic gymnast, then you are missing the allure this film has on so many 28-35 year old men that secretly rent this title at least once a year ... for a good laugh. The movie is funny because it's so bad and takes itself so seriously. Enjoy it. Stop analyzing it as of it were ever intended to be a cinematic masterpiece. Bad movies deserve good ratings because they are so unintentionally funny. So, rent Gymkata, Glitter, and any movie with Julia Stiles, sit back, relax, and marvel at the unintentional comedy.
The average rating of 2.9 out of 10 for this film is a travesty. Anybody who watches this film and gives it less than 3 out of 10 is a fool who has completely missed the point. Let me explain: The acting...is not great. The plot...could be deeper. The direction and cinematography...second to many. However, all of those things (and probably many more) take a sideline when you watch the film. This is due entirely to the sheer fun of it all. It is not meant to be a serious work of art (at least I hope not), it is meant to be a fast paced, entertaining vehicle for showing off Kurt Thomas's ample gymnastic abilities in the most contrived situations imaginable (spot the high bar (and chalk) between two buildings). And in this capacity, the film really delivers as we follow Thomas (aka Jonathan Cabott) through a life or death race - that some people bizarrely seem to have volunteered for - across some very inhospitable ground with a bunch of well armed, evil looking locals on his tail. Sure, if you're a movie critic who has watched every film ever released since 1896, you'll probably think this is puerile rubbish. That is why I am so pleased not to be a movie critic, because I can sit down and watch a simple film and derive a simple pleasure from it. Simple as that.
Mullet Wars at its best man. As expressed numerous times, anyone that
laughing at movies, who appreciates camp value, mullets, bad acting,
extremely poorly acted sequences, bad fight scenes, indiscernible plot
configurations, and yes THE MULLET, you will love this
Everyone around here is giving such glowing remarks about the camp value of the film maybe its high time we talk about just why this movie is BAD. If you're in the mood for an epic adventure action movie, do NOT see this one with hopes of coming out with your testosterone cravings sated. Such is the curse of bad kung fu movies without genuine kung fu artists. Why did this movie fail dismally at its objective? Well I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head. First off, as alluded to, this is an action-epic type of movie with definite parallels to Enter the Dragon. Martial Artist chosen by government to go to some isolated little known area of the world to help the United States' cause by outwardly competing in some kind of competition/game.
So given its obvious reaching for Enter the Dragon memories, you would think Clouse would have made an attempt to grab some good actors, the kind of martial artists that could easily impress the audience with their moves. So who did they get? All white guys, including an olympic gold medalist in gymnastics, Kurt Thomas. So where in the martial arts action epic genre some directors sacrifice acting talent and bad english for superb martial arts (Ninja 3: The Domination, a bad movie with some pretty good martial arts), and other directors sacrifice superb martial arts for well spoken english, boyish charms, and great acting ability (David Carradine and Jeff Cooper in Circle of Iron, a must-see if you love martial arts genre whacky movies) Clouse has in this case sacrificed "acting ability" of all variations for bad english and *horrible* martial arts sequences.
Why else is this movie an utter failure at its objective? Well, part of the magic of Enter the Dragon was its theme of Shaolin martial arts. This, especially at the time, was kind of a popular mystical topic that few understood, but most everyone thought was "cool". In this way, anything Eastern involving mysticism or fighting is a veritable well of immediate movie value (hence the 80's ninja craze). The problem with this movie is it gave the feel of a popular mystic subject without using any of the popular mysticism that gives this type of movie instant entertainment value to movie-goers regardless of accuracy. The biggest attempt at this might be the name "gymkata" because it sounds kind of Eastern, and the premise of mixing western and eastern styles. But in actuality this premise is little better than a line in the movie, because there is NOTHING else in the movie to support it.
Why else? Bad sequences, choreography, and directing. When I think about this movie and Enter the Dragon, I can't help but think that Clouse truly just was not trying with this movie. Its the only way to explain his complete inept job of directing this movie. The subplots are bare and underdeveloped. The premise of the movie surrounds a "game" whose rules and dynamics are completely indescernible, baffling, and plain dumb. As previously expounded upon, the coincidences in this movie are terrible such as the infamous pommel-horse town of the crazies scene. My honest guess is that after Kurt Thomas won the gold medal, some money grubbing crazy producer (the kind responsible for making 7th sequels and whatnot) decided to capitalize on gold medal fame by starring a gymnast in a martial arts movie, then proceeding to blackmail Robert Clouse into directing such a film, and Clouse in his attempt to get back at his blackmailer, sabotaged his own film by putting a bunch of bad-acting white guys who can't fight in a martial arts genre movie, sticking in poorly developed subplots such as the love story between the princess and the gymnast, and overall making a movie that any director would sit back, watch on the big screen, take the ONLY copy of the film, lock it in an iron chest, and bury deep within the earth's core.
How this movie escaped the wrath of MST3K I'll never know. "Gymkata" is a
ridiculous action movie, filled (or is that empty?) with paper-thin plots,
dumb characters, and preposterous situations. But take it from me, if you
enjoy watching poor, yet goofy, movies, you will enjoy "Gymkata" a great
The action centers around a gymnast who is chosen by government agents (at least I think they were government agents) to become a spy. You see his dad was another quasi-government agent, who has gone missing competing in this game, called, eloquently, "The Game." So the gymnast (played blandly by Kurt Thomas) trains to compete in this game and find out what happened to his lost dad.
Sounds promising doesn't it? Okay, so it doesn't but still, that bare bones plot sypnopsis doesn't begin to describe the joys of this movie. They can be found in the movie's strange details. Like the gymnast's mysterious Asian girlfriend, who doesn't speak for the first half hour of the movie, then all of a sudden begins to talk, and doesn't shut up for the rest of the time! Or the really tough shirtless bad guy who likes to make and break "The Game"'s non-existent rules whenever he so pleases. And of course there's our hero's delightful romp through the "Village of The Crazies" (Evidently that's the place's real name!). Nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
But where this movie really shines is the action scenes. Since our protagonist is a gymnast, the director thought it wise to stick gymnastic equipment into the back alleys and town squares of Middle Eastern cities, so that our Gymkata master would be better able to use his gymnast skills to fight the scourge of evil on parallel bars and pummel horses. It has to be seen to be believed.
One interesting thing of note. A lot, I'd say about half the cast, dies from being shot with an arrow. Interesting because the arrows are the only believable effects or action in the entire movie. If these were indeed effects, my one major note of compliment to whoever devised these very realistic arrows wounds. More likely, this was the film's way of not paying extras. Nevertheless, "Gymkata" deserves a look if you can see it without paying and are looking for some silliness that is an easy target for riffing.
I first saw this movie with three friends at a theater in Norman, Oklahoma
when it first came out. Aside from the four of us, the usher was in the
theater, and the projectionist too. They should've gotten combat
The US government goes to a gymnast to get him to train for and participate in The Game, a decathlon cum obstacle course held each year in the tiny country of Parmistan (the four of us immediately decided its major export was Parmesan cheese...). The Khan of Parmistan grants each winner a favor, and the US wants our hero to ask pretty please to let the US put some kind of radar installation in Parmistan to support SDI. Our hero agrees--after all, his dad mysteriously disappeared in Parmistan.
Our hero gets some help from the Khan's daughter, who turns out to be the only citizen of Parmistan who looks even vaguely Asian. (_Gymkata_ was filmed in Zagreb, then in Yugoslavia.) There are people who want to stop him, though--fortunately, every place our hero is in danger, there happens to be a convenient piece of gymnastic equipment that he can leap onto and kick some enemy behind. (It even comes pre-powdered so his hands won't slip--they think of everything!)
A high point of the film is the Khan himself, and his pronouncements from the balcony. We in the theater swore up and down that Mel Brooks was playing the Khan... He always uttered some non-English interjection that we promptly forgot, replacing with "Uff-da!" when imitating him during and after the film, and followed it up with "My people!"
I recommend this in a double feature with _Phenomenal and the Mask of Tutankhamen_. Think you need an Abdomenizer? Nope--just watch these two movies.
Wow! This one has been stuck way in the back webs of my mind. Almost
erased until I stumbled across it on the IMDb! As soon as I saw the
title I immediately remembered the movie as if it were last week. I can
see why many would consider this to be a bad movie, but oh well,
opinions are like #*$holes, everyone has one. So be it. I liked it. The
cheesy element made it work in a weird way. The locations were
authentic from what I remember and the action was pretty good.
The scenes that stick in my mind are the crazies in the village, very funny, but almost creepy. I remember when he entered there were creepy noises, I was 11 yrs. old in '85. Also, the flagmen, dressed in colorful uniforms pointing the way to the next obstacle. I liked this movie and I remember it as a late night classic on HBO/Cinemax in the 80s. I hope cable brings it back with this release. If not, I will purchase it.
"Call me Snake"
This is one of America's finest films. If you don't know, now you know. In the words of Lord Bephfington "I would give my right arm for DVD copy of this classic." By combining both humor and action, Gymkata makes for easy viewing over and over again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
American champion gymnast Jonathan Cabot (woodenly played by handsome
and muscular real-life Olympic champion gymnast Kurt Thomas) travels to
the remote country of Parmiston to participate in a deadly competition
that hasn't been won by an outsider in 900 years.
Director Robert Clouse, working from Charles Robert Carner's patently absurd script, treats the laughably ridiculous premise with utmost misguided seriousness, stages the martial arts fights with aplomb, and keeps the enjoyably inane story moving along at a snappy pace. Moreover, this film offers a wondrous wealth of gut-busting howlers: Bad guys don't bleed despite getting pumped full of bullets by machine guns, both an iron bar and a pommel horse just happen to be exactly right where they are needed for key action set pieces, a mist-shrouded town populated by colorful, yet dangerous crazies, and so on. Tetchie Agrayani looks positively ravishing as the feisty Princess Rubali, Richard Norton snarls it up nicely as the evil Zamir, Bob Schott cuts an intimidating figure as hulking brute Thorg, and a hilariously miscast Buck Kartalian serves as a prime source of sidesplitting unintentional humor as a pompous king who resembles an old Jewish vaudevillian. Alfi Kabiljo's rousing score and Godfrey A. Godar's slick cinematography are both up to par. A real wacky'n'tacky hoot.
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