Hu! Ha! Gymkata!
You are invited to witness the deadliest martial art of them all...
—The Gymkata taglineGymkata
is a 1985 film filmed in Yugoslavia and starring Kurt Thomas as Jonathan Cabot, an Olympic gymnast who combines his gymnastic ability with ninjutsu to enter a deadly competition in a fictional country, Parmistan. It is based on the novel The Terrible Game
(1957) by Dan Tyler Moore. The film has developed a cult
following as an unintentional comedy for its dubious premise, poor production quality and low budget.
The United States "Special Intelligence Agency (SIA)" wishes to set up a site in the Hindu Kush mountain range of fictional Parmistan to support a satellite monitoring station, which will aid the US in preventing possible nuclear attacks. Before the US can go forward, however, they must gain permission from the Khan of Parmistan (Buck Kartalian). The Khan will allow the US to build their station only if they assign a designated champion to participate in "The Game". The Game is a deadly athletic competition where the victor earns the right to their life and is granted one wish. Apparently no foreigner has won the game in nine centuries, but the US approaches Olympic gymnast Jonathan Cabot (Kurt Thomas) to be their champion. Cabot is informed that the previous athlete the US sent to participate in The Game went missing in action; not only was this athlete an SIA operative, he was also Cabot's father.
Although Cabot is a world class gymnast, he lacks the survival skills to endure the deadly nature of The Game. He will be pursued by ninja-like Parmistani warriors who will stop at nothing to kill Cabot. In order to have a fighting chance in The Game, Cabot receives invaluable training from an unnamed Japanese martial arts master (Tadashi Yamashita) and Princess Rubali (Tetchie Agbayani), daughter to the Khan of Parmistan. He undergoes a rigorous regimen of weapons training, fighting styles and climbing up and down stairs on his hands. This amalgamation of martial arts and Cabot's gymnastics skills give birth to a new discipline deemed Gymkata. Towards the end of his two-month training period, Cabot makes a romantic advance upon Princess Rubali. She initially resists, but then succumbs to him.Gymkata
is not a well made movie. It's not a well acted movie, it's not a well written movie, it's not a well directed movie and it's not a well choreographed movie. What does that make Gymkata
? It makes it an awesome movie for all the wrong reasons
. There are bad movies, there are worse movies and there are movies that offer a few brief moments of unintentional comedy, but Gymkata
is a tour de force of B-movie greatness. At no point will you not be entertained. What else can you ask for from a movie starring an Olympic gymnast fighting ninjas and crazed peasants?
For the general trope of gymnastic moves being used for combat, see She-Fu
or Dance Battler
Gymkata has examples of:
- Benevolent Architecture: It's amazing how much of Parmistan's architecture just happens to look and function like gymnastics equipment. Okay, granted, maybe you could make an argument that a city full of lunatics WOULD have decided, in their own delusions, to just stick a random pommel horse-shaped lump in the middle of the city square and it's just pure coincidence and bad luck for them that the foreigner trying to get through is a champion gymnast and martial artist...
- Cloud Cuckoo Land: The crazy town Cabot has to go through as part of the game, which includes a guy who cuts off his own hand in the middle of fight because he couldn't let go of a pipe he grabbed for some reason.
- Cold War
- Death Course
- Disappeared Dad
- The Eighties
- Everything's Better with Princesses
- Film of the Book: This movie based on the novel, The Terrible Game. And no, the book has nothing to do with gymnastics.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game
- I Know Madden Kombat: Gymkata
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: One of the ninjas had an aim that was so bad that when commanded to kill a failing contestant, he shoots the ninja holding him.
- Insistent Terminology: "Carabal- by the Caspian Sea" (As opposed to, presumably, Carabal by the Mediterranean or Irish Seas...)
- Love Interest
- Martial Arts and Crafts: Gymnastics + "kata" (Japanese term for a fighting style) = "Gymkata"
- Mentor Archetype: Cabot's master.
- Mook Chivalry: A particularely Egregious example. In the pommel horse fight scene, all the mooks look somewhat menacing with their pitchforks and such, but they're not even making an effort to appear as if they're aching to jump Cabot if not for his combat skills. Most are quite literally just standing still until its their turn.
- No Name Given: Cabot's master.
- Non-Actor Vehicle
- Tempting Fate: "Just a little anti-American sentiment, nothing to worry—" Cue arrow to the chest from off-screen.
- Town with a Dark Secret: The village at the end of the Game route is populated entirely by lunatics.