- Movie: Gymkata
- Director: Robert Clouse
- Starring: Kurt Thomas, Tetchie Agbayani, Richard Norton
- Rotten Tomato Rating: 18%
A Little Context
His name, Kurt Thomas.
Like “Miami Connection,” “Gymkata” was supposed to be the big action movie debut for Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas. It did not pan out so well. Take a look at the trailer and you’ll understand why:
Almost 10 years after Kurt Thomas competed on the US Gymnastics team in the 1976 Summer Olympics, someone had the brilliant idea to feature him in a martial arts film. However, as Thomas’s specialty was gymnastics, the movie needed a martial art that played to his strengths. And would allow for unique marketing. So what we get is a new style of martial art that combines gymnastics with karate; thus gymkata was born! And I know what you’re thinking: no you cannot find any gymkata dojos.
After watching this movie I think we can safely say that being really good at gymnastics does not mean you will be a convincing martial arts expert–even a made up one that caters to a male gymnast. On top of that conceit, we get a baffling plot that tries to be as cool both James Bond and “Enter the Dragon.” It fails terribly. Here is what we’re left with…
The US government’s Special Intelligence Agency (made up) needs to install a satellite monitoring station in the country of Parmistan (also made up). It’s never really explained why the US government needs to put a monitoring station in this tiny country, so don’t think too hard about that. If they can’t get into the country the diplomatic way, they can’t put the station in a neighboring country, what other options are there? The answer is Jonathan Cabot (Thomas).
Interestingly/conveniently enough, Parmistan holds an athletic competition where the winner is granted one wish, while the losers, obviously, end up dead. Cabot’s skill makes him the ideal choice to win the competition, but what seals the deal for Cabot is learning that his father was an SIA operative who was sent to Parmistan for the same reason–and never returned.
Saying that Cabot is the right man for this job is like watching a movie where two characters are supposed to be in love but there is zero chemistry between the actors–Thomas is obviously fit, but he never seems IN ANY WAY to be the number one choice for this mission. The movie likes to remind us that Thomas is skilled at gymnastics by putting random flips into scenes that don’t really require them. And at no point in the movie does karate seem more effective because of its combination with gymnastics. We basically just get a few punches and kicks, a completely unnecessary flip, followed by more punches and kicks. Did you spot that pommel horse in the trailer? Yeah. It manages to make less sense and look less convincing in the actual movie.
I have to touch a bit on the movie’s finale. The athletic competition culminates at some sort of village filled with the real loonies of this country. For reasons I can’t quite describe, the stark contrast of this part makes it almost compelling–as if Thomas wandered into some kind of horror movie village that exists only to torment people stupid enough to enter. Luckily for Thomas, none of the villagers know how to use the very long weapons they are all brandishing, and they were also kind enough to set up a pommel horse for him to use.
With all of these reviews I kind of think talking about the acting is a little bit like beating a dead horse, but it should be noted that at no point is Kurt Thomas convincing. There is a love interest (a princess, of course) and as you can imagine they have no chemistry. Thomas is supposed to be threatening but can never talk big enough or look imposing enough (the turtlenecks don’t help) for us to get over the fact that he is a small man.
But Can I Drink To It?
You can. Definitely understand that the fighting is never quite as good as you want it to be. A smart person would have surrounded Kurt Thomas with people skilled enough to make him look really good…that did not happen. Still, it’s fun nonetheless.
Unnecessary gymnastics – DRINK for 3 seconds!
Ninjas holding flags – DRINK for 5 seconds!
Walking up the stairs on his hands – DRINK for as long as it’s occurring!
Face on the back head – DRINK/CHUG a full beer!
Here is the edition I watched and where you can find it: Gymkata DVD for $6, but it’s also available on Amazon Instant for a couple bucks.
Post by: Tyler P.
Tyler Phillippi is a former improviser and musician. Now, he mainly focuses on getting through his Netflix queue. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org