GYMKATA! The Most Ridiculous Action Movie of the 80s (and Therefore Ever)In the 80s your special skill would save the day no matter how ridiculous it was, and skills don't come more ridiculous than male gymnastics. We only claimed that was a thing so girls would learn to bend like that. In a disastrous leak of movie-logic into reality one man's athletic ability not only saved but caused a movie: GYMKATA!  It's billed as "The skill of gymnastics, the Kill of Karate!"  That implies that karate is unskilled, which is a pretty ballsy claim for a professional male prancer.

Kurt Thomas was a three-time World Champion Gymnast, which unfortunately translates into movie as "inexperienced stuntman."  The poor flexer was a sure bet for Olympic gold in 1980 but missed out because the US boycotted the games over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which couldn't be have less to do with athleticism if it was a Warcraft guild. Getting this movie instead was like replacing a winning lottery ticket with an eviction notice from dignity, and had the exact same effect.

It also proved that truly, war benefits no-one. Because this movie cancels out the Afghanistan conflict's gift of Rambo.

This is one way to show your hero is a man at the start of the movie

This is .... another

It triple-forward-flips downhill from there.

The Hero

We have to admit that Kurt Thomas was a phenomenal athlete, just a terrible everything else. He flips the human body at more dangerous speeds than a crashing motorcycle. "Jumping on a mat" had already been an Olympic sport for almost a century when he invented a new way of jumping - if he'd been given a scientific education he'd have proven superstring theory by leaping into the 11th dimension and spinning 3960° degrees.

The problem is that becoming an Olympian means absolute dedication, which means not learning anything else. Like "how to act" or "how to appear more threatening than a average girl scout". The character's name is John Cabot, making him the first action hero with a less manly name than the actor. This means scriptwriter looked at him and said "You're not badass enough to be called Kurt Thomas."  K-names require seven-foot tall Teutonic buzz-cuts and the ability to punch through tanks. Thomas's five foot five and flexibility would earn him a two-syllable name ending in "i" and a giggle.

The Mission

The US needs a base for their new satellite nuclear-weapon tracking system in the tiny, presumably cheese-flavored country of Parmistan, meaning the US doesn't know how satellites work. Parmistan is about four miles across - if your satellite needs a base there don't worry about it, because it's going to hit a basketball player before completing its first orbit. It's also the first country where ninja are more naturally occurring than teeth, and much more visible.

This is not how Ninja work.

Apparently military action is “out of fashion,” a brutally prophetic parody of the United States having no sane options between “Massive invasion of a foreign country” and “lone gymnast.”  It's stupid even by 80s' standards of "We can't officially intervene but can totally send the human embodiment of the American Spirit visibly to detonate a foreign country, then return directly to the US while actively screwing a foreign agent in an exact analogy of our foreign policy."

Instead Kurt must play "The Game", an assault course built out of ninjas and crazy people. He's the perfect choice because it already killed his father, who was a real secret agent and presumably accepted this suicide mission wracked with disappointment in his son becoming a male gymnast.  

The Montage

Realizing that "competitive gymnastics" might not cover the entire espionage skillset, displaying a level of tactical insight their recruitment department doesn't, the Special Intelligence Agency (and that's "Special" as in "Olympics") begin the worst training montage ever filmed. Yes, including Mr T losing a fight to a rope. [link]  They imbue Kurt with wisdom from the East and West, which in the 80s meant Old Japanese Man and Angry Black Guy.

Old man's entire contribution is crotch-shot enabling, quoting fortune cookies, and the most unimpressive martial arts display in history.

We only use “martial” because the tiny blade means it technically doesn’t count as “skipping.”

The most incredible part of the training montage is the stairs, where Kurt Thomas – world champion gymnast, on a goddamn cinema screen, in front of millions of people who paid to watch an action movie – walks on his hands an expects us to be impressed. Though the cameraman clearly is. The shot lingering on Kurt's crotch like he's trying to get the audience pregnant.


That shot is literally pointless, just like (and because of) a male gymnast's crotch: they all replace their genitals with evolved pommel-horse-gripping clamps. At no point is it explained why they don't just send the significantly tougher Black guy.

The Love Interest

The love interest is princess Rubali, introduced by the SIA agent as “Interesting background:  her mother was Indonesian.” That’s it. In another incredibly prophetic moment the US agent considers "being foreign" to be deeply interesting. You can tell she's the love interest because she's the only woman in the whole movie with a full set of teeth. Parmistanian dental care apparently consists of Coke mouthwash and rock-chewing.

Kurt's romantic choices. The only winning move is not to play.

The movie backflips into first place on “Worst Romantic Scene Ever” scale,  backflips again to say “YES even worse than that Attack of the Clones one”, backflips once more to piss you off and that’s still not as many backflips as he uses in the worst minute of romance ever filmed.

Gladiator's "Am I Not Merciful?" scene was a better seduction

At this point she still  hasn’t said word one, but has made attempt on his life three, and he seduces her through squeaky-voiced sarcastic backflip improvisational theatre. That technique contains such an incredible intensity of anti-seduction words the only way it could get you laid is if it projected you into a mirror universe where that worked. Which it does.

The worst thing is that ridiculous flip is actually the “Thomas Salto”, and he doesn’t call it that:  the entire gymnastics federation does because he's the first person to survive performing it on the international stage. It's still consider three-quarters impossible because the human body hasn't evolved gyroscopes and helicopter blades yet. It's a "tucked 1.5 backward salto with 1.5 twist into a roll out", which we en-genital-ed humans would call "literally face-breakingly impossible", and it's incredibly impressive unless

a) you're using it to pick up a girl in the style of a smug 8 year old who wouldn't know what to do with one

b) the idiot cameraman keeps half your spinning body out of shot every time you do it, for god’s sake.

It's like finding out your new immortality serum has been used on the cast of Jersey Shore. They then apparently sleep together, which presumably involves Kurt gripping her between his thighs and revolving twenty times.

Will he forward-flip to freedom for the world?  Continue To Part 2!

Subpages (1): GYMKATA part 2