Released by MGM
Release Date: May 3rd 1985
Starring: Kurt Thomas, Tetchie Agbayani, Richard Norton
Written by Charles Robert Carner
Directed by Robert Clouse
Rated R (Language, violence, nudity)
This movie is the third movie in the "Robert Clouse/Fred Weintraub Martial Arts Saga". It's kinda like the Twilight Saga only without all the gayness and without the movies actually tying into each other. The first movie in this saga was Enter the Dragon aka The Movie That Killed Bruce Lee. Everybody remembers Enter the Dragon with it's hip 70's funk soundtrack, the philosophy of Bruce Lee, and the blink-or-you'll-miss-it cameo from the one and only Jackie Chan. Many consider the movie one of the best martial arts movies of all time, but I think that it is just ok. Sure Bruce Lee brought a stone cold approach to his roles and he was a master martial artist, but movies really aren't that good. Take a look again. Bruce Lee was the precursor to the Steven Seagal way of bringing martial arts to the screen: slow and methodical. Besides the end of Way of the Dragon, his fight scenes are played out like a video game. The bad guys just line up to be killed by one punch. I honestly think that if Bruce Lee had lived he would not have been able to make the transition into modern martial arts movies.
Since they struck out with Chan, Clouse and Weintraub needed to find a new martial artist whose career they could destroy. Instead of looking at up and comers in the Asian market, the duo decided to set their sights on American, you know because us Americans are really good at a fighting style that we didn't create. Their new star, Kurt Thomas, was not a martial arts at all. He was an olympic hopeful who did not get to compete because the U.S. was mad at Russia, so the U.S. didn't go to the 1980's Olympics. This is a shame because if Thomas had gone, he would have been appearing on Wheaties boxes. Instead, he got the call from Hollywood saying that they wanted to turn him into the white Bruce Lee.
You know, I could see this conversation happening because there is no way that the filmmakers could take this movie seriously. They had to be laughing the whole time. They probably weren't, but I like to think that they were because this movie is a comedy pure and simple. Sure it takes the look and feel of a "real movie", but all the laughs are there even if they weren't meant to be.
This is all done within the first twenty minutes of the movie. I have never seen a movie get to the training montage so fast. It also seems that part of his training, since it is included in the montage, is falling in love with the princess. During his training there is a bit of dialogue that I found to be very funny. The man who wants Thomas to play The Game asks him if he likes the princess. Thomas responds that he does. The man then says "Interesting heritage. She might be Mongolian" The fact that the man found her heritage interesting isn't funny, but that she MIGHT be Mongolian is very funny, like its a rumor or something.
Now we are at the point in the movie where we are told exactly what The Game consists of. The players have to run for a little while, then climb some ropes, then they run a little more, then they have to cross a gourge using ropes, then they run a little more, then they enter The Village of the Damned, then they run some more. During all of this they will be guided by some "ninjas" and chased by other, lead by Richard Norton. The "ninja" guides don't wear the funny hats, just the ones that chase the players.
So after the dinner and a good nights rest the movie finally gives us The Game and let me tell you, it does not disappoint. The players take off from the courtyard of the castle. Within twenty feet Thomas falls down. Another player sees this, turns around, and kicks Thomas in the face. That's right, the hero couldn't make it twenty feet into The Game without falling down and getting kicked in the face.
By the time Thomas makes it to The Village of the Damned he is basically the only one left. (There is another person alive, but I will leave that up to you to discover. The Village of the Damned is where Parmistan sends all of their crazy people. Thomas runs around trying to find a way out while the crazies make funny noises and laugh. There is one crazy who stands in a corner with a mask on the back of his head. Was he trying to fool Thomas into think that he was a regular guy before attacking him? I just didn't get this. Eventually, Thomas makes it out and he has a final showdown with Norton.
The movie ends with Thomas winning, getting the girl, and saving Parmistan. Then there is a freeze frame and some text that informs us that Parmistan let the U.S. use there country for the Star Wars program. Really? This whole fight was over a satellite program? Wow. I am just stunned.
I know that Gymkata was made because Battlecreek Brawl was such a huge hit (it wasn't), but I think that the filmmakers had finally run their course with the whole tournament idea. The duo would go onto make one more movie together (China O'Brien) which I have never seen. One day I will, but for now I am trying to get the taste of Gymkata out of my mouth.