December 23, 2013 at 3:47 am (7 Heads, Gymkata) (, , , , , , )

Gymkata – 1985 – United States/Japan

Olympic medalist Kurt Thomas plays Jonathan Cabot, a gymnast recruited by the U.S. Special Intelligence Agency for a mission to the country of “Parmistan” in the Hindu Kush mountain range. The U.S. wants to install a satellite monitoring system for the Strategic Defense Initiative’s “Star Wars” program. To earn Parmistan’s permission, Jonathan must win a competition known as “The Game” that is so deadly it has not been completed in 900 years. Participants run an obstacle course while battling ninja hordes, eventually reaching a town full of traps and insane cannibals. Somehow Jonathan does not seem worried. Perhaps because he is trained by Parmistan’s sexy princess and has mastered the fusion of gymnastics and karate known as Gymkata.

Everything about Gymkata is highly implausible. Apparently, Jonathan’s father died in The Game and Jonathan wants vengeance. He is also spurred by love for the princess, but that hardly explains why he or anyone else would agree to this absurd suicide mission. Amazingly, the Special Intelligence Agency sends him off with a clear conscience, even though his training mostly involved walking up stairs on his hands. Also, the outrageous plot twists are numerous. Beyond the preposterous quantity of illogical double crosses, it seems Jonathan’s father is not actually dead, although he is killed moments after that is revealed, only to be revived again later.

Gymkata is pretty impressive for being so stupid. It was filmed in Yugoslavia, and the urban and wilderness locations are authentically exotic and crammed with human and animal extras. Actor Kurt Thomas is a real gymnast, and his remarkable slow motion stunts make the fights exciting, even if the villains just bob around and wait to get clobbered. If nothing else, watch the incredible scene where he decimates a mob while twirling around a pommel horse.

Gymkata maintains an admirably straight face while being utterly ludicrous. It is unpredictable, flabbergasting, and lots of fun to watch. In my favorite bit, Jonathan is trapped in a town of inbred maniacs. As he flees a bloodthirsty mob, a priest beckons him to a temple. Jonathan approaches and the priest turns to reveal that his robe is backless and his ass is hanging out. Shortly after, Jonathan fights a man with a face on the back of his head which may or may not supposed to be a mask. In other words, Gymkata is wonderfully unique.

Rating: 7/10 Shrunken Heads. From the poster: “The skill of gymnastics. The kill of karate.”

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