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Overall Rating
1.42

Awesome: 8.33%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 8.33%
Total Crap83.33%

1 review, 6 user ratings


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Gymkata
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by Robert Flaxman

"Jaw-dropping - and stomach-tightening."
1 stars

To say that Gymkata makes no sense doesn't really get at exactly what is so hilariously, awe-strikingly terrible about this film. It is not that Gymkata doesn't make sense - instead, it is as though it was filmed in an alternate universe in which the concept of "sense" did not even exist. Saying "Gymkata makes no sense" assumes that the film was made with sense-making in mind, but when a film is this spectacular in its failure to be at all coherent, it is easier - and more charitable - to assume that the filmmakers did not have a grasp on what making sense even was than to assume that they missed the mark by so much.

Even in the era of Red Dawn, the idea of a plot that involves a single American competing in a dangerous competition in a remote country so that the U.S. can win the right to put part of its Star Wars missile defense system there is pretty stunning in its jingoism. This may well be the only thing in the plot of Gymkata that really sticks together, however, bizarre as it may be - so perhaps we should cut it some slack.

The country in question is Parmistan, an awkwardly multi-ethnic nation run by an old Jewish guy who has a Filipino daughter and whose closest adviser is clearly from Australia. The rest of the population appears to consist of old, toothless Yugoslavian extras, all of whom look vaguely crazy, or perhaps just overly pleased to have a camera trained on them. (The failure of the princess to look anything like her father, or indeed anyone else in the country, is explained in a scene early in the film where one character tells another, "She has an interesting story. Her mother was Indonesian." That is, in fact, the entire story.)

The single American is Jonathan Cabot, a - wait for it - champion gymnast recruited by the United States government to take part in "the Game," which no outsider has won in 900 years and yet which apparently takes place every couple of weeks and is attended by some of the world's best athletes (or so the film would have you believe - most are clearly out-of-shape professional stuntmen who are only there to be killed by arrows). With the apparent mortality rate of the Game, it's a wonder the Olympics made it to 1984 in Gymkata-land.

Cabot is to be trained by the princess, Rubali, except that the extent of her training involves watching from a window and occasionally pulling a knife on him, which is supposed to train him not to trust anyone. (Okay.) She also doesn't speak for some time, which makes it more than a little odd when Cabot decides to put the moves on her after he's been in her presence all of twice. But heck, why waste any more time than necessary on exposition? We've got a Game to get to!

The Game is, as you might expect, the kind of thing a child would come up with, if that child were both minimally imaginative and creepily violent. It's basically an obstacle course, except that while you're climbing on ropes people are shooting arrows at you, and the part of the course you have to run goes through a city full of zombies. (For the record, they're not officially zombies, but rather the criminally insane of Parmistan, who have been condemned to their own walled city. The only real difference, though, is a reduced amount of expression of the desire for brains.)

Cabot's gymnastic skills, of course, have to come in handy. Conveniently, there is a pommel horse - okay, it's a well with hand grips, but the whole reason it's there is to act as a pommel horse - in the middle of the walled city, so that Cabot can perform nifty maneuvers and beat back crazy people at the same time. Perhaps they should have tried rushing him rather than running directly into his flying legs as individuals, but hey, they're crazy people. Apparently they can't even avoid cutting off their own hands; organizational skills might be asking too much.

The roles of any number of characters are not well-defined. Zamir, the Australian adviser, is the obvious baddie, what with his shooting Cabot's father with an arrow in the opening scene and his behind-the-scenes scheming. He might be connected with a kidnapping of the princess and an attempt to keep Cabot from ever reaching the Game... but why? Does Zamir somehow know that Cabot is the only one who can win the Game? No one's won this thing in 900 years, but Zamir - this tall, beefy guy with an army behind him - is afraid of a 5-foot-nothing gymnast who learned a few karate techniques in a brief training course?

But wait a second - I'm trying to find logic in Gymkata. That's not a good idea. We're talking about a movie that opens so abruptly and with so much exposition that it probably could have used a title card with a paragraph or so and saved ten minutes of screen time - and even with all the exposition, the opening is so rushed and vague it feels like we're watching what was supposed to be a sequel. Why does Cabot know so much about Parmistan and the Game? Shouldn't he even ask why they're choosing him? At the end of the exposition, the government guy asks Cabot, "Any questions?" And Cabot doesn't have any! What does he know that we don't?

Whoops, there I go again. I'll just say this - it's almost impossible to see this movie (it pretty much requires buying a used VHS tape off the internet), so if you get a chance to watch it, you should absolutely do so. It may make no sense at all, it may be absolutely terrible in pretty much every dimension - but you have to see a movie this bad. I wouldn't say it's "so bad it's good," but it's certainly so bad it's hilarious.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13727&reviewer=385
originally posted: 01/17/06 08:09:37
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User Comments

7/24/10 bagwell5 The title & poster are the best part. A good "bad" movie. Enjoy with a drink or two. 2 stars
2/13/10 PAUL SHORTT SILLY, AMATEURISH MARTIAL ARTS NONSENSE 1 stars
8/17/08 adrion s Great drinking game movie. Gotta love the Wilhelm screams and Charlie Brown sound effects! 5 stars
7/06/06 CTT Gymkrappa! 1 stars
6/05/06 Sugarfoot One of the worst movies I ever saw in theaters. 1 stars
1/04/06 Jack Sommersby So ineptly amde and amatuerish it makes a 3rd-grade drama production suprior by comparison. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-May-1985 (R)
  DVD: 30-Jan-2007

UK
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