Friday, January 13, 2017


Based on the novel The Terrible Game by Dan Tyler Moore, Gymkata is the story of a gymnast who travels to a mysterious country of where he combines martial arts with his gymnastic abilities to enter a deadly game of endurance and survival. Directed by Robert Clouse and screenplay by Charles Robert Carner, the film is martial arts movie mixed in with adventure and comedy in a low-budget setting. Starring Kurt Thomas, Tetchie Agbayani, Richard Norton, and Edward Bell. Gymkata is a ridiculous yet enjoyable film from Robert Clouse.

Set in a fictional country called Parimistan near the Hindu Kush mountain ranges in Asia, the film is about a gymnast who is asked by the American government to enter a deadly competition where the winner is granted life and a request. The gymnast is reluctant at first but since his father was at the country and hasn’t been found, he decides to take the mission as well as learn some martial art techniques and fuse it with his gymnastics. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it blends all sorts of genres from the action/adventure film with the martial arts genre though it also bear elements of the B-movie as it is set during the Cold War. The screenplay does have some cheesy dialogue and the motivation relating to wanting to install a satellite over the country and gain the country’s allegiance to the U.S. during the Cold War isn’t well-thought of. Yet, it’s in the action and what this gymnast does to help a princess in dealing with a military leader who is secretly planning to stage a coup.

Robert Clouse’s direction is definitely stylish as it bear many elements that is so typical of 1980s B-movie action films yet it doesn’t apologize for it. Shot on location in the former Yugoslavia, the film definitely play into this tense atmosphere of the Cold War but with an old sense of rules in a country that hasn’t been formally introduced to the 20th Century. While there’s some wide shots in the film to establish the locations, much of it presented with medium shots and close-ups to play into the action as well as in some of the fighting. Some of it looks quite cheesy such as a training sequence early in the film yet Clouse doesn’t waste time as he just simplifies the story and goes for what is eventually going to happen. The film’s second half in the game is quite eerie as it involve a group of crazies and such where the film’s protagonist has to try and survive it as the suspense is engaging as well as the action which does lead to a thrilling climax. Overall, Clouse creates a silly yet fun film about a gymnast who learns martial arts and survive a deadly endurance game.

Cinematographer Godfrey A. Godar does excellent work with the cinematography as it is mostly straightforward with the exception of the climatic sequence of a damned village featuring cannibals and crazies. Editor Robert A. Ferretti does nice work with the editing as it has some stylish slow-motion cuts and some montage-like sequences as much of it is straightforward. Production designer Veljko Despotovic, with art directors William Maynard and Nemanja Petrovic and set decorator Sheree Stivers, does fantastic work with the look of the castle that the ruler of Parmistan live in as well as the training camp. Costume designer Drago Habazin does terrific work with the costumes from the cheesy clothes that the film‘s protagonist wears to the ninja-like clothing of the bad guys. Sound designer Richard Dwan Jr. does superb work with the sound from the way some of the weapons are presented as well as in the action scenes. The film’s music by Alfi Kabiljo is wonderful as it has this element of bombastic orchestral music to play into the action and suspense.

The film’s cast is brilliant for the most part as it feature some notable small roles from Eric Lawson as Colonel Cabot who is presumed missing, Edward Bell and John Berrett as a couple of American competitors of the game, Conan Lee as an Asian competitor, Bob Schott as a huge and violent competitor called Thorg, and Buck Kartalian as the king of Parmistan. Tetchie Agbayani is good as Princess Rubali who would oversee Jonathan Cabot’s training while trying to tell her father that Commander Zamir is plotting to overthrow him. Richard Norton is superb as the antagonist Commander Zamir as a military leader and game organizer who is trying to marry the princess as he sees Jonathan as a major threat and tries to have him kill and plan his coup though it‘s hard to take him seriously considering that he sports a weird rattail look. Finally, there’s Kurt Thomas in a good but not-so-great performance as the film’s protagonist Jonathan Cabot as a young gymnast who is given a mission to help the American government stop a coup as well as play a deadly game as his line delivery is mediocre but he does kick ass despite his mini-mullet.

Gymkata is an incredibly silly but very entertaining film from Robert Clouse. While it has a simple though ridiculous premise and is very flawed, it doesn’t hold back on the fact that it’s meant not to be taken seriously as it’s just a whole lot of fun. In the end, Gymkata is a pretty good film from Robert Clouse.

© thevoid99 2017


Dell said...

Can't remember if I watched the whole thing, or not. I do remember at least watching part of it way back in the day and thinking it was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever seen, and not in a good way. I just lol every time I hear about this movie.

thevoid99 said...

It's one of those so-bad-it's-good kind of film as I just enjoyed it no matter how ridiculous it is. It was on Turner Classic Movies recently as I just said, "fuck it". Sometimes, you need to turn off your brain and enjoy it for what it is. It's cheesy but it's fun.

joel65913 said...

I have a dull throb behind my eyes just thinking about this and how incredibly dopey it was!!

I'd be ashamed to say I saw it in the theatre if I hadn't snuck in after my buddy and I had been to see something else, I think Ladyhawke and had some time to kill. Even though my expectations weren't high-a movie called Gymkata and starring an Olympic athlete didn't fill me with great hopes-it was still rock stupid.

thevoid99 said...

@joel65913-It may have been dumb but you can't fault it for being fun.