1985 | Color | 90 min.

Starring: Kurt Thomas, Tetchie Agbayani, Richard Norton, Edward Michael, John Barrett, Conan Lee, Bob Schott, and Buck Kartalian

Directed By: Robert Clouse

Eager to secure a strategic site for a satellite monitoring station vital to the new “Star Wars” missile defense system (See kids, once upon a time, President Reagan was going to stick it to the Commies by putting an array of satellites equipped with kick-ass, death lasers in space! Look, the ‘80s were weird…) in the small, middle eastern country of Parmistan, the American government calls upon the services of world-renowned gymnast, Jonathan Cabot (played by real life gymnast, Kurt Thomas). Since traditional forms of diplomacy or a full-out invasion are apparently out of the question, Cabot must travel to the isolated country and compete in “The Game,” a deadly athletic competition so treacherous, no outsider has managed to win in over 900 years. However, as a reward for winning “The Game,” the victor will be allowed one request from the Parmistani king. Cabot must use his unique combination of gymnastics and martial arts, known as “Gymkata,” to survive the deadly obstacles, outlast the other competitors, defeat “The Game” (Insert your own HHH joke here), and secure the satellite station for ‘Merica.


Before embarking on his quest to compete in what is essentially the most hardcore version of Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (aka. Takeshi’s Castle) imaginable, Cabot must first hone his fighting abilities in an obligatory ‘80s training montage where the filmmakers attempt to cram 90 minutes of character development, romance, and backstory into about 10 minutes of screen time. His two ethnically diverse, yet laughably stereotypically-portrayed trainers, school him in the ways of the streetwise Western and mystical Eastern fighting styles, while the princess of Parmistan, Princess Rubali, looks on—quickly going from hating our hero’s flippy, be-mulleted guts, to making sweet, sweet royal love to him in record time.

“Go ahead, say ‘I’d pommel your horse” one more time. I dare you.”

Once in Parmistan (famous for their delicious cheese), Cabot fights his way through “The Game,” utilizing fortuitously placed gymnastic equipment such as bars to swing from and, in the highlight of the film for me, a laughably out of place pommel horse in the middle of a town full of mentally deranged residents, known as The Village of the Damned. Fortunately for our brave hero, the dozens of weapon-wielding psychos intent on tearing the flesh from his body, each patiently wait their turn to be kicked in their half-empty heads while Cabot performs his deadly pommel horse routine.

What? Doesn’t every town have a pommel horse in the town square?

The sound effects during these fight scenes are so ridiculous they nearly justify giving this movie a watch all on their own. Every jump, flip, and spin is accompanied by an over-the-top “whoosh” sound, more suited to a jet passing by than human movement; Punches and kicks sound as though someone slapped a side of beef wrapped in bubble wrap with a soggy briefcase full of celery; and nearly every blow finishes with a loud crack seemingly ripped straight from Devo’s 1980 hit, Whip It.

Man, without Statler, Waldorf is just unpleasant.

Lead actor Kurt Thomas, who despite being a legitimate, world class athlete and a highly-decorated gymnast, still cuts a less-than-imposing figure, looking to be about 5ft nothing and 125lbs. He’s noticeably smaller than the entire supporting cast, except for his “because it’s in the script, that’s why” love interest, Princess Rubali (played by former Playboy covergirl, Tetchie Agbayani). While he is completely believable as a skilled athlete and gymnast—because he was—he is much harder to take seriously as a fighter, especially against opponents who routinely have a foot of height and 100lbs of muscle on him. Now, someone like Jackie Chan can pull that off because, in addition to being a legitimate bad-ass, Jackie usually plays up his size difference with his more imposing opponents for comedy, often landing a completely ineffective punch on a hulking monster, only to look up with that patented, Jackie Chan, “Oh poopie” face, before being tossed across the room. Jackie also possesses that legendary charisma and screen presence which makes it nearly impossible not to like him. Thomas on the other hand, seems to possess a singular facial expression and is outshined by his own, admittedly fabulous, mullet throughout the film.

“I’m sorry. Next time I’ll ‘wake you up before I go go.’”

Gymkata has everything you could want from a truly great bad movie. A non-actor in the lead role, a completely ludicrous premise and nonsensical plot, extras seemingly pulled directly from The Big Book of British Smiles (Look it up), a forced romantic subplot, unbelievable fight scenes, silly supporting characters–most notably the king of Parmistan (Buck Kartalian), who I swear may as well have been played by Mel Brooks himself, and a title that’s just plain fun to shout without warning around unsuspecting people. Go ahead and give that a try at your next family get together. Just walk up to gram-gram, look her right in the eyes, and shout, “GYMKATA!”

Trust me, she’ll love it.

Even Donald Trump would be jealous of this man’s comb-over game.



Reviewed by Derek “Time To Play The Gaaaaaaaaame!” Miller
Posted on September 6, 2019


Video Clip – Pommel Horse Pummeling!

Additional Screenshots (Click an image to view full-size)


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