[box cover]

Gymkata

There are certain movies (like 1972's Night of the Lepus) that can be described in ways that make them sound more entertaining than the idea of actually watching them. And the problem with 1985's Gymkata is that it does feature a guy using a pommel horse to beat off his foes, which is great in theory. The premise is that Jonathan Cabot (Kurt Thomas) is recruited to win "The Game" in the fictional foreign territory of Parmistan in the hopes of helping the United States government install a missile-defense-shield site. "The Game" involves running around the country while people try to kill you, which no one has won in 900 years — including Cabot's supposedly dead dad. But the U.S. really wants the missile site, so Cabot goes through some rigorous kung fu training, and then it's on to Parmistan. What he doesn't know is that there's a bad guy Zamir (Richard Norton) who's trying to control the country, and he's about to marry Cabot's love-interest, Princess Rubali (Tetchie Agbayani), and will try to prevent anyone from winning what amounts to a craptastic restaging of The Most Dangerous Game (the film, it should be noted, is actually based on a book entitled The Terrible Game, which sounds like it's probably a rip-off as well). Kurt Thomas was a champion gymnast who was denied a possible Olympic gold medal when Jimmy Carter boycotted the summer games in 1980 — his consolation prize was starring in this movie (arguably, it's one step above Turtle Wax), which is where (as the trailer informs us) "when gymnastics and karate are fused, the combustion becomes an explosion and a new martial arts superhero is born." Seeing as how Thomas didn't appear in another film until 2003, it was something of an overzealous sentiment. But the Gym meets Fu style means that Thomas's moves usually involve doing flips and handstands or finding things that resemble gymnast equipment in inappropriate places. And while grabbing a high beam and kicking people makes some sort of Fu sense, finding a pommel horse in the middle of a town is just absurd enough to elevate this film into levels of high camp. Yes — it's a bad movie, and Thomas is obviously a very short man, which means the staging of some of his fight scenes are awkward since he never looks intimidating. And somehow, that just makes the movie even more fun. Director Robert Clouse secured his reputation with 1973's Enter the Dragon, but that picture succeeded by the sheer force of Bruce Lee's will alone. Left to do the heavy lifting, Clouse is at a loss. And so is Thomas. And so the amusement factor dwindles even with the film's relatively scant 90 minutes. Still — Kurt Thomas uses a pommel horse to fight bad guys. Somebody wanted to see that, since DVD consumers voted this title out of the Warner Bros. vault for its 2007 release. Warner Home Video presents Gymkata in an altogether-too-nice anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with DD 1.0 audio. Extras include a trailer for the film and a bonus trailer — a decidedly a missed opportunity, since the mind reels at the thought of what Thomas might say about the movie now. Keep-case.
—DSH



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