The year was 1985. Schwarzenegger and Stallone were reaching their heights as action heroes, and Hollywood bigwigs were looking to add to the stable of people who could kick ass in the name of America. Apparently a some bottom-feeder producer in Burbank was looking to accomplish this as well: enter Olympic gold medalist Kurt Thomas, a 5'6", 150-lb dynamo who vaulted straight off the pommel horse and into the hearts of moviegoers with "Gymkata."
"Gymkata" is a deadly form a hand-to-hand combat in which the devastating power of gymnastics is fused with karate. In fact, the movie poster breathlessy exclaimed that it was "A new form of martial arts combat! The skill of gymnastics! The kill of karate!" Indeed.
The plot, as it were, was simplistic even by jingoistic mid-80's standards. Thomas plays Jonathan Cabot, and Olympic gold medal gymnast (what a stretch!). Our government has found the perfect spot for a "Star Wars"-type missle defense base. Unfortunately, this post is within the "tiny, yet savage, country of Parmistan," which is an amalgam of "Pakistan" and "parmesan."
For the US to get this prime spot, they must compete in a brutal fighting event called "The Game." Younger readers might ask why we didn't just invade them as we're prone to do nowadays, but back in the peacenik 80's, international crises were solved with karate tournaments.
"Frosted hair...very un-masculine sweater...
yes, I believe he will make the perfect killing machine."
Anyway, the government recrutes Jonathon, who also conveniently happens to be the son of a former CIA operative, and trains him to marry his gymnastics skills with killing techniques of the east until he becomes the ultimate weapon...against crowded movie theatres, that is.
So Jonathon goes to Parmistan and beats up a lot of guys with turbans, thanks to the the conveniently placed horizontal bars that seem to be in every alley, which allow him to swing around kicking people, topped off by the perfect dismounts that are his trademark.
There's also a whitewater rafting chase involving ninjas, flaming-rope torture (mild compared the pain inflicted on viewers), a martial-arts master with a hawk on his arm, a tepid love scene, a vicious battle against a giant norwegian named Thorg, and a climatic chase through an insane asylum.
Shockingly, a perusal of the movie poster credits states that this dreck was "based on the novel 'The Terrible Game' by Dan Tyler Moore (husband of Mary?)." Well Dan, your book "The Terrible Game" became "The Terrible Movie." I hope that $2500.00 option bought you enough blow to keep you happy or kill you before this blight hit theatres.
For more info on this gem, click here. It has tons of pics that will really bring everything into cruelly-sharp focus for you, and goes into way more detail that I ever could if I hope to stay sane.