Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here.
What else needs to be said?
This makes me giddy the same way Neill reviewing 300 did. Sometimes the right reviewer gets hold of the right film, and the result is… well, see for yourself:
I believe Donald Drunko was the name of the wiseguy talkback newsie who kept bugging Harry and Moriarty to review the GYMKATA DVD, and then roped me into it. If so this is for you, Drunko. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to perform this important service. Number one, I am a positive individual so I try to give back to the community. Number two, I always meant to see this horse shit anyway.
GYMKATA is the 1985 picture by Mr. Robert Clouse, director of ENTER THE DRAGON, BLACK BELT JONES, CHINA O’BRIEN and various other American martial arts pictures. Unfortunately he must’ve hit upon some hard times during the Reagan years because here he is rehashing ENTER THE DRAGON but instead of finding a cool new martial artist to star in it he got a gymnast. Kurt Thomas was a world champion and was expected to win a gold medal in the 1980 Olympics, but the US team boycotted over the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. If he had gone maybe he would’ve won, but maybe he wouldn’t have and people woulda been disappointed, the shine woulda been gone on him and nobody would’ve wanted to make GYMKATA. What I’m saying is this movie and Osama bin Laden are both unintended consequences of the same conflict. And I can say objectively that the better of the two is GYMKATA. GYMKATA is better than Osama bin Laden.
Now, alot of you may not know this about me but I have a little inside knowledge of this material because I was involved in competitive men’s gymnastics, qualifying for three regional competitions and placing in two between 1977-1982. Because of this background, my experience viewing GYMKATA may be a little different from– nah, just fucking with you, actually I forgot there even was such a sport as men’s gymnastics so bear with me if I make any incorrect statements.
Based on the novel “The Terrible Game” by Dan Tyler Moore, GYMKATA is the timeless tale of, well, ENTER THE DRAGON but with all the good elements replaced by bullshit. It starts out intercutting the dude spinning on bars with some guys riding horses (what is this, an Ed Wood movie?) but then becomes ENTER THE DRAGON, with some prissy government bureaucrat guy recruiting Kurt to go to some backwards fictional country in Eastern Europe called Parmistan and compete in a deadly tournament. But instead of Bruce Lee you get fucking Kurt Thomas. Instead of the most iconic martial arts scenes ever put on film, you get some asshole spinning around on a bar pretending to kick a dude. Instead of a martial arts tournament you get an obstacle course race (in the movie they call it “The Game,” but in modern society we call it “Real World Road Rules Challenge.”) Instead of a great villain like the metal-clawed Han, you get the Clouse regular Richard Norton, who just looks like any other bearded white karate dude from the ’80s except he has a little braid on the back. And a dangly earring. Instead of cool henchmen like Bolo Yeung and Sammo Hung, you just get some dipshits in executioner masks that are supposed to be ninjas because they shoot arrows every once in a while.
Alot of people forget this, but ENTER THE DRAGON has a good supporting cast too. Bruce is obviously the main show, but Jim Kelly is in there and he gets some good lines. And you even got John Saxon. This one has a bunch of nobodies that get one line before they get impaled, fall off a cliff or are found dead without you even getting to see it. So there’s nobody to carry the gymnast. He’s gotta stand on his own two feet and that’s something the guy just can’t do. Maybe the most telling moment is when the race begins and he is immediately in last place and running like a girl. After about 20 feet he falls down for no reason, and a big dude named Thorg (Bob Schott, another Clouse regular) notices so he turns around and kicks him in the face.
Let me repeat that. The so called martial arts hero of this movie is such a fucking sissy that he can’t run 20 feet without collapsing to the ground and getting kicked in the face. And this isn’t at the beginning before he toughens up, this is the start of the climactic race. Maybe they shoulda got Mary Lou Retton to star in this thing. This is what we get in a permissive society that allows THE KARATE KID to become a major cultural milestone. That’s why even though ENTER THE DRAGON, BLACK BELT JONES and THE BIG BRAWL
all had funky as hell theme songs, this one doesn’t. The score is fine (especially considering the era we’re dealing with) but it has no funk. Because it stars Kurt Thomas. It doesn’t deserve funk.
See, gymnastics are obviously a good skill, all the great martial artists do flips and shit. But the thing is this guy can only do the flips. The kicks and the punches are not so convincing. Worse, he just looks like a complete dipshit. There is nothing tough about this guy at all. And that’s why America loves it.
Okay, I had to criticize this movie for being such a low point for Robert Clouse, but I can completely understand why some of you people love this movie. I’m not sure it’s up there with ROADHOUSE or ON DEADLY GROUND in laughs or admirable sincerity, but this is definitely a funny straightfaced action movie. I mean, at one point Kurt Thomas gets chased down an alley and finds a bar perfect to jump up on and spin around. At another point he is surrounded by a crowd of criminally insane cannibals, but happens to be sitting on a stone something or other with handles just like a pommel horse, so he starts gymnasticking everybody in the face. This is good shit.
There’s also some good lines. Like the guy who says, “Well, there’s just a little anti-american sentiment running around. But I think– AARGH!” as he is suddenly hit with an arrow. Or Kurt’s secret agent dad, who turns out to actually be alive, hugs him and says, “It’s great to see you! You’ll never know how–AAH! AHH!” as he too is suddenly hit with an arrow.
Also, I counted at least 5 parts where somebody is thrown off something tall and does a funny dubbed scream.
Most of the non-gymnastics action scenes aren’t as funny. But there’s a pretty entertaining section where the race goes through “the village of the crazies,” where Parmistan sends their criminally insane. These guys just stand around laughing and making bird sounds and they attempt to mutilate any outsiders. I’m not clear whether this is what they do 24-7 all year round or if they just pull out all the stops once a year when The Game comes to town. But this is crazy town so some crazy shit goes down here. A guy in a monk’s robe gestures to come through a door, and Kurt (who, by the way, is a complete idiot) is about to follow. Then the guy turns to open the door and we see that the back of the robe is cut open to reveal his bare ass. Which means he’s crazy.
These crazies have some good ideas though. They send vicious dogs after Kurt, which would make the Olympics more entertaining, but they don’t listen to the crazies, they’re stuck in their boring old ways. Kurt also gets chased through a pig pen and has to climb over pigs, but as far as I can tell they are just regular pigs and not crazy pigs that have been cast out. As Kurt climbs out a window he looks down and sees the crazies about to stab Thorg with pitchforks. Kurt has this look on his face like he knows he has to intervene, this guy tried to kill him but it is only right to save his life, and then maybe all will be forgiven and they’ll work together to survive this deadly challenge. But that’s not what he does, he just watches as they kill Thorg. Remember, this is Kurt Thomas we’re dealing with, he’s not gonna be able to save somebody unless doing a flip or spinning on a pole is what can save them. Even then, he might boycott.
The part I really don’t get is the weird guy with the blank expression standing up against the wall. After a while he turns around and you realize the weird face you’ve been staring at is made out of rubber and attached to the back of this guy’s head. But I don’t think it’s supposed to be a mask, I think he has two faces, like Barbra Streisand’s mirror. So they send people with birth defects to the village of the crazies too? This is very strange for this type of movie, I gotta commend it. However, having just watched EL TOPO again recently I’m thinking they could’ve gone even further. Maybe a dude covered in bees jerking off or something, I don’t know.
In the end of course Kurt wins The Game, and some text on the screen tells us that the government got their way and was able to use Parmistan to launch a “Star Wars” defense satellite. In ENTER THE DRAGON they’re actually accomplishing something, stopping Han from murdering women. In GYMKATA they just want to send up an SDI satellite. Of course, now it’s 22 years and billions of dollars later and we know that “Star Wars” is a scam – it still can’t tell the difference between a missile and a balloon that got away from a birthday party, even on a clear day, and how’s it gonna shoot down a boxcutter or a suitcase bomb? So in retrospect we can see the cruel irony of The Game. All those lives, all those arrows, for what? To pad some pockets and send up a useless satellite. Unless maybe they use that satellite for cable tv now. Who knows. Maybe they died so we could watch Crank Yankers and shit.
GYMKATA was released on DVD as the result of an annual Warner Brothers promotion where amazon.com allows people to vote for the release of movies from a group of WB catalog titles. I know there were multiple online GYMKATA get out the vote campaigns, but don’t get too excited. It was one of 12 movies they chose, it didn’t exactly win the gold medal. It did beat out a pretty good movie called CARNY, starring Robbie Robertson from The Band.
Knowing the fan response, WB pulled out all the stops for this DVD, including interactive menus, scene selections, the whole works. On the chapter index your selection is signified by a little ninja star, which is nice since there are no ninja stars in the movie but there obviously should’ve been. Other extras include an FBI warning, the original trailer, which has some really funny narration, and a trailer for DUKES OF HAZZARD: THE BEGINNING, with a new Daisy Duke that looks more like Catherine Bach. (“The Duke boys are back – for their first adventure.” Whuh?)
One thing they definitely did right, they used goofy vintage artwork from the original release instead of doing some new photo collage that would hide what the movie actually was. I don’t know why they don’t do that more often – it’s easier for them to do, it looks way better, and it’s more honest. I also appreciate that they included an English subtitle track. Some of the Seagal movies lately they haven’t bothered, and I can’t always tell what everybody is mumbling about.
The original 1.85:1 aspect ratio is sumptuously transferred, looking better than GYMKATA has ever looked (probaly, I don’t know) and also better than NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER has ever looked.
Anyway, thanks Drunko or whoever it was,
yours in Gymkata,
Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/31537
View the archived Ain’t-It-Cool-News Talkback
Feb. 10, 2007, 4:44 p.m. CST
Feb. 10, 2007, 4:50 p.m. CST
I think that the best part was when the hero beat back a horde of enemies on a pummel horse.
Feb. 10, 2007, 4:43 p.m. CST
Gymkata is better than Osama…
Feb. 10, 2007, 5 p.m. CST
I remember this from when I was a kid
by Fabulous Freak
I thought that pommel horse ass-kicking scene was the coolest fight ever. I’ll check it out for old times sake.
Feb. 10, 2007, 5:07 p.m. CST
The original aspect ratio is sumptuously transferred…
Feb. 10, 2007, 4:57 p.m. CST
When can we expect the MegaForce review?
I mean, come on…the guy goes from becoming MegaForce leader to mayor of New York. That’s gotta count for something!
Feb. 10, 2007, 5 p.m. CST
Like ‘Oz’, Gymkata synchs with Dark Side of the Moon
by Pound Sand
Feb. 10, 2007, 5:15 p.m. CST
Bullshit, Mr Han Man!
now i wanna watch ENTER THE DRAGON
Feb. 10, 2007, 5:24 p.m. CST
“Other extras include an FBI warning . . . ”
On top of things as usual, Vern my man.
Feb. 10, 2007, 5:15 p.m. CST
saw this in high school after 17th birthday
by Sir Loin
…which means I could FINALLY go to R-rated movies on my own. Woohoo! Even took a girl to see this, the selling point that it’s martial arts but really “super gymnastics” and she fell for it. Once, anyway…great review, btw! Thanks for the laughs.
Feb. 10, 2007, 5:34 p.m. CST
A new feature. We get to decide what Vern reviews…
by Alonzo Mosely
This could transform AICN. I vote for the entire Children of the Corn series… Just because I am evil…
Feb. 10, 2007, 5:44 p.m. CST
When I first read the title…
by The Dum Guy
I thought this had sumthin to do with “Gun-gata”, but this actually sounds more interesting.
Feb. 10, 2007, 6:23 p.m. CST
…You Come Straight outta a comic book!
Jim Kelly’s famous last words in Enter the Dragon.
Feb. 10, 2007, 6:23 p.m. CST
Ok, talk about WEIRD coincidences…
Last night I decided to do a SEARCH for Harry’s past Dvd Picks and Peeks…I was re-arranging my netflix qeue and I wanted see if there were any titles I missed from Harry’s original column (thank god its back btw). I assumed those columns were lost forever (I seem to have mixed luck with the AiCN search engine most of the time) but I figured I’d give it a try. Imagine my surprise when all of his past columns came up! Gymkata was one of the first titles I added! Its funny that if I hadn’t JUST gotten the idea to check out those old columns, I’d probably have just skipped this feature not knowing what it was about! Sometimes, things just fall into place…
Feb. 10, 2007, 6:42 p.m. CST
by Alonzo Mosely
The people are speaking… Democracy in action… Vern will be powerless and will have to dance to the tunes we play… Muhahahaha…
Feb. 10, 2007, 6:36 p.m. CST
PS: my two favorite lines from this review
“it has no funk. Because it stars Kurt Thomas. It doesn’t deserve funk.”
“Worse, he just looks like a complete dipshit. There is nothing tough about this guy at all. And that’s why America loves it.”
Thanks for an entertaining read…
Feb. 10, 2007, 6:49 p.m. CST
damn I read that as Gunkata….
my hopes were dashed
Feb. 10, 2007, 6:55 p.m. CST
Not a single mention of American Anthem?!?
You disappoint me Vern.
Feb. 10, 2007, 7:27 p.m. CST
Will There Be An “American Ninja” Review?
by Mr. Nice Gaius
Vern – the genius that is Michael Dudikoff has been ignored for FAR TOO LONG. Search your cinematic feelings…you know this to be true.
Should this come out in a deluxe edition DVD gift-set, I will expect it to be reviewed alongside its riveting sequel, “American Ninja 2: The Confrontation” and Dudikoff’s triumphant kick-cock return in “American Ninja 4: The Annihilation”.
Yours in Dudikoff,
Feb. 10, 2007, 8:04 p.m. CST
The 1980 Olympics Boycott = idiocy
by Barry Egan
Jimmy Carter is a well intentioned idiot.
Feb. 10, 2007, 8:20 p.m. CST
Sons of El Topo…
Loved the “Letters from Iwo Jima” review as well…
Feb. 10, 2007, 8:38 p.m. CST
this review made me laugh out loud several times
thanks, vern for the most entertaining review i’ve read on this site in quite awhile.
Feb. 10, 2007, 9 p.m. CST
by Calico Pete
This DVD is just another attempt to cash in. Does WB think we’re stupid enough to double-dip when the extended edition comes out?
BTW, does anyone know when it’s supposed to come out and whether it’ll have the legendary balance-beam scene?
Feb. 10, 2007, 9:01 p.m. CST
Where the Hell is the GYMKATA DVD Review!!??
Oh wait SWEET BABY JESUS the glorious day has finally arrived. Thank YOU Vern you are the MAN!!!The review was hilarious and everything I dreamed it would be. I feel like one of those little sick kids who’s dream gets made a reality. This ranks second to Stallone promising to come into Wal-Mart when hes in town and shadow boxing with me.
A side note :I woke up to find my newly purchased GYMKATA DVD in my mail box. I just opened the dvd and like 5 minutes later I see the review. Life is good my friends Life is good. Now its time to enjoy some GYMKATA goodness!!!
Feb. 10, 2007, 10:19 p.m. CST
Ever seen “Kill and Kill Again”?
by TORTURE PWN
Now there’s an action movie definitely worth a Vern review.
Feb. 10, 2007, 10:29 p.m. CST
80 Boycott wasn’t idiocy, it was genious!
It led to the 84 boycott, and the US winning 10 gazillion medals, and the USSR was so overwhelmed by the US’ athletic strength they tore down the Berlin Wall, abandoned Communism, and promised to show up in Atlanta in 96.
Feb. 10, 2007, 10:29 p.m. CST
Steve Chase is the South African Chuck Norris
by vic twenty
TORTURE PWN, you nailed it! Kill and Kill Again is an all-time classic. Steve Chase and his merry band of mercenaries taking it to the evil Marduke (with one of the classic fake beards in cinematic history) and his evil fist named Optimist Prime. I shit you not. When I first saw the Transformers and heard the name Optimus Prime, I was expecting a bushy-stached South African dude in a karate gi. But that was not to be. But Steve Chase does not ask his team to fight by his side – he must defeat them all to prove they are his bitches. He out muscles Gorilla (the late great Ken Gampu), out zens the Fly (he fucking FLOATS), slaps the shit out of Gypsy Billy in the trailer park out-gambles Hot Dog. All to save a kidnapped scientist and nail his daughter. Marduke’s beard still haunts my memory…it is the stuff of legend…..
Feb. 11, 2007, 12:07 a.m. CST
Gymkata wins the award for the
Greatest Inverted Crotch shot of all time. I found this gem of a flick at a used book store for a $1.25, I saw the cover and knew i had to buy it, after watching it I realized I had just seen one of the greatest film ever. That is untill i watched the $1.25 Lion Man flick i picked up at the same time, now thats a film that needs to come out on dvd.
Feb. 11, 2007, 12:42 a.m. CST
PUMA MAN VS LION MAN
by Mace Tofu
GYMKATA VS KILL AND KILL AGAIN.
All good times in a bad way. Thanks for the review, saves me from renting the DVD ( I paid to see Gymkata first-run so fool me once… but I do have fond memories of the gym bar in the alley scene and that is worth a rental just for the WTF?. ) LordTwinkie, check out PUMA MAN for another crazy WTF? movie.
Feb. 11, 2007, 12:53 a.m. CST
Hey Vic Twenty!
by TORTURE PWN
It’s been awhile,but wasn’t there also a plot to brainwash people using potatoes?…maybe it was just a dream…
Feb. 11, 2007, 3:28 a.m. CST
I feel really, really sorry for
Barbra Streisand’s mirror. That’s a shit job.
Feb. 11, 2007, 4:23 a.m. CST
by Judge Dredds Dirty Undies
My love for Vern is very large.
Feb. 11, 2007, 4:58 a.m. CST
Makes me want to watch the superior House of the Dead
Then followed by Alone in the Dark.
Feb. 11, 2007, 5:34 a.m. CST
Just my humble opinion…
by JERRY HORROR
Robert Clouse is a hack, who won the lottery ticket of directing Bruce Lee in his stateside debut.
Gymkata is pretty bad, I do enjoy some of the fight sequences.
I would kill, I mean kill to get No Retreat, No Surender box set and King Of the Kickboxers. I need help.
Feb. 11, 2007, 7:16 a.m. CST
How dare you . . .
. . . make fun of the mighty karate kid! Ralph Macchio is turning in his grave. All of my life’s lessons, especially how to break ice with my bare hands, came from those movies. Without them I’d be using an icepick like every other retard. Come down to my dojo and I’ll teach you a thing or two about movie reviewing.
Feb. 11, 2007, 7:59 a.m. CST
Big kudos to the guys…
…who mentioned the James Ryan classic Kill and Kill Again. I prefer Kill or be Killed myself with that weirdo martial arts tournament in the desert organized by a loony nazi. Gotta love them zany South African early 80s kung fu movies.
Feb. 11, 2007, 8:26 a.m. CST
“Gymnastics skill with karate kill!”
…That was the tagline in the ads. It’s one of the best I have ever heard.
Feb. 11, 2007, 9:06 a.m. CST
onefatman, uh Macchio is still alive…
it is the “Hip Nip” who would be doing the spinning.
Feb. 11, 2007, 10:26 a.m. CST
‘gymnasticing people in the face’ – CLASSIC!!
You’re a funny fuck vern
Feb. 11, 2007, 12:39 p.m. CST
If you wanna see the awesome badness that is gymkata, but dont want to watch the whole thing, just click here:
Feb. 11, 2007, 1:26 p.m. CST
“Village Of the Crazies” and the cry of “YAKMALA!”
By far, the best scenes in the movie!
Feb. 11, 2007, 2:48 p.m. CST
Kill and Kill Again
by TORTURE PWN
The new “must review” movie!Please?
Feb. 11, 2007, 4:17 p.m. CST
Gymkata = Gay people wants action movie of their own
Feb. 11, 2007, 8:46 p.m. CST
AvengingFist = Homophobes wants make funny joke
I worked too hard on this review to have some schmucks ruin it with this stupid pointing and laughing at gay people bullshit you kids are so into these days. Maybe if you spent less time gay bashing and more time practicing your comedy chops you would come up with some better ones. Gay people didn’t ask to be gay nor did they ask for GYMKATA. It is 2007 in my opinion, not the fucking dark ages, tolerance is easily accessible, so there’s no excuse for you.
I think you can do it bud. Get it together. Thanks AvengingFist.
Feb. 11, 2007, 9:27 p.m. CST
by Kurutteru Yatsu
“Gay people didn’t ask to be gay nor did they ask for GYMKATA.” That’s possibly one of the best things I’ve ever read on this site. Mad props to you, Vernie Mac.
Feb. 11, 2007, 9:45 p.m. CST
Feb. 12, 2007, 3:01 a.m. CST
Considering the percentages…
I’m sure that somewhere out there in this crazy world there are some gay people who, in fact, asked for GYMKATA. And anyone who asks for GYMKATA, gay or straight, deserves it. Is HAMBURGER: THE MOTION PICTURE on DVD yet? It’s tasty, by God.
Feb. 12, 2007, 8:13 a.m. CST
Oh for God’s sake…
…great review, Vern, but seriously people need to get off their high horses here. “Boo hoo. You’re intolerant. Weep.” Remember your line about how a culture could allow “The Karate Kid” to become a cultural milestone? You just exhibited why right there.
Feb. 12, 2007, 10:32 a.m. CST
Bare-assed Crazy (w/P.S. to Torture PWN)
by Spaceman Spliff
Man, I’m so glad Gymkata has become a subject of public discussion. I’m (only slightly) embarrassed to admit that this movie used to be one of my HBO favorites back when I was–like–thirteen. Speaking of “bare-assed,” though, that one crazy guy with the cut-out monk robe haunted my nightmares. I just couldn’t get my mind around it. Oh, and P.S. to Torture PWN: You can’t watch “Kill and Kill Again” without seeing “Kill or Be Killed” first. I mean, how else can you hope to understand what’s going on?
Feb. 12, 2007, 11:16 a.m. CST
by TORTURE PWN
Then a Double Feature we demand!Or humbly request,that is.But really KaKA(!)is pretty much self explanatory.But why not review both?Vern,what sayest ye?
Feb. 12, 2007, 12:33 p.m. CST
Steve Chase was the MAN!
He howled louder than Bruce.
Feb. 12, 2007, 1:19 p.m. CST
Vern,Steve Chase was INDEED the man
by TORTURE PWN
The people are speaking!Chase’s “Kill” movies are the stuff of legend!Vern,treat yourself to two of the craziest low budge 80s action films ever produced(especially KaKA).Then please treat us to one of your insightful,often hilarious,but no less informative reviews.You won’t be sorry,and,I’m sure,neither will we.Keep up the good work!p.s.
Feb. 12, 2007, 1:26 p.m. CST
What I was going to ask …
by TORTURE PWN
before my 18 month old shut my computer down,was if you,Vern,have ever done,been asked,or considered doing a commentary track for anything?
Feb. 12, 2007, 1:50 p.m. CST
The best line from “Swim-Kata”, starring Mark Spitz:
“Stop, or I will Swim you to Destruction!” :-)
Feb. 12, 2007, 2:54 p.m. CST
Funnier than Gymkata itself.
“Gay people didn’t ask to be gay nor did they ask for GYMKATA.” Much like the movies you review I can’t tell if that was sincere dialogue or intended as a joke but either way I need it on a T-shirt.
Feb. 12, 2007, 5:43 p.m. CST
I learned Gymkata from TBS & MST3K
Hey Vern, I loved the review. For years this movie’s title has been like a punchline between me and my friends because it would always get pre-empted by baseball on TBS and Crow T. Robot would often yell it out during a lame fight scene. Your review has only piqued my interest in the cinematic stupidity that is “Gymkata.” Thanks, I’m off to the video store.
Feb. 12, 2007, 7:11 p.m. CST
Vern really adores Gymkata I guess
I however am looking forward to Postal by herr doctor Uwe Boll.
Feb. 12, 2007, 9:20 p.m. CST
Thanks for the link. The crotch shot of Kurt Thomas while he’s walking upstairs on his hands is fucking hilarious. You rock.
Feb. 20, 2007, 11:39 a.m. CST
I was at Circuit City the day this came in. I saw it by the register and just started laughing, remembering the classic pommel horse action. The salesepeople had never heard of it, and soon I had a crowd listening to my nostalgic rememberances of the film. We used to laugh and laugh just saying the title “Gymkata”, though I never actually bothered to see it.
March 20, 2007, 2:38 p.m. CST
can’t believe I missed reading this
by just pillow talk
Tears were flowing down my face at work while I read this. I applaud you Vern.
March 22, 2007, 4:58 p.m. CST
a dude covered in bees jerking off
by Drexl Spivey
Another fine write up by Vern the shining beacon of hope in a world of internet bullshit gone wild.