Nothing is worse than this: my review of Gymkata
Wow. Where to begin? I cannot now join the happy bunch at www.ninjaburger.com
as I own a copy of this film on VHS and have thus broken the eleventh commandment. What to do?
The film starts with a John Frankenheimer inspired shot (low to the ground) of what appears to be either an elongated male organ or a huge baseball bat. Music starts, ominous music, sounding like someone scratching a tune on his genitals with a hacksaw and then strangling a cat. Then, two powdered hands grab the ‘male organ’. Wow, this is getting exciting or what?. Oh, no wait. Damn. It is actually one of two parallel bars mounted by some gymnast with a serious mullet. This is intercut with shots of some poor bugger hurtling hell-for-leather through the woods and some horsemen pursuing the aforementioned poor bugger through those woods, ending up with that guy swinging like a frightened monkey on a children’s rope. “Come along, Cabot!” says Mullet #2 (Richard Norton). “The Khan (who he?) explained the game! Now back off!” screams the pursued one. “And you believed a fool!” says Norton, dispatching the pursued one with a bow and arrow. Guy falls, perhaps el splatto on the rocks. Urgh. But waittttt! We didn’t see him fall on the rocks below! Dat mean he not ded? Spoiler and loophole #1 of many. Anyway, back to the story.
Stunt upon stunts by the gymnast (he of the male organ and mullet) who eventually, unlike this film, lands on his feet when he leaps from the bars, and not on his head. The mullet would have saved him, though. His girl tries to approach him and some guy puts his hand out to stop her, makes eye contact with the gymnast and looks at her as if to say “This one’s mine, duckie.” Cut to a house in the woods and to a shot of Kurt Thomas, failed Olympic gymnast and soon to be failed actor. Mumbo jumbo between him and his boss about his unresolved issues with his father who was the pursued one. Yawn, scratch my ass time. Recruitment time as Paley (Edward Bell) gets Cabot Jr to play for the other team. “You know……your FATHER was HAMPERED by a lack of KNOWLEDGE about the Game.” says Paley. “Fortunately, WE have a BREAK. Jonathan Cabot, MAY I present the PRINCESS RUBALLIE of PARMISTAN. The Princess is an EXPERT at the game and SHE’LL be handling your TRAINING from now on.” Enter the exotic Princess Ruballie (Tetchie Aygbayani) who begins Cabot’s training by proceeding to kick his backside and his front side six ways to Sunday. And tie him up! Ooooh. Paley (who acts…..LIKE…..a…..WILLIAM Shatner…. clone…..and looks as though he could use some sun)says: “What she’s saying is: don’t trust anybody.”
Cabot’s training in the art of ‘gymkata’ (a combination of serious butt kicking and my-trousers-have-split-and-I-have-no-underpants-on gymnastics) continues under the watchful eye of Ruballie and her duo of torturers. Among these latter gents is a guy who can be blindfolded and then lay down some amazing moves with scythes without offing himself in the process. He also mumbles terrible purple prose such as “Do not hear the wood split. Hear the only sound of axe. Cutting air. Read the air itself. It has much say to you.” Steve O and Johnny Knoxville could probably learn something from this guy. Cabot is then forced to do a handstand (so that the girls can check out his nads) and walk up the stairs on his hands. He eventually makes it (after falling on his ass a couple of times: Torturer #1: “No, no, dumb dummy!!”) and after he knocks down Torturer #2 with a bo staff, his training is complete. No, wait, he hasn’t gotten it on with his leading lady. Wham, bam, thank you m’am. Now my training is complete.
Cut to ‘Karabal ~ on the Caspian Sea’. Trevor breaks off and pulls up www.mapquest.com
. Uh, uh. No such place. Forget it, this film was shot in Yugoslavia, so it must have been filmed there somewhere. Enter one John Mackle, known as the Stork. A guy who runs a salt mine is not to be trusted and ‘Stork’ is one shady character, who resembles most of the actors who attempted to act in some fly by night South African film productions of the 1980’s. Oh yes, major plot development: the previously mute Ruballie speaks her first words! (“Fine piece of work.”)
Karabal nightlife ~ in a word or two, bad. Americans are not welcome, their bodyguards get offed in the worst way (hello, major overkill!) and their girls get kidnapped. Cabot is out for revenge, sorts out the baddies, discovers that firearms do not suit him, finds Ruballie, they get chased through the streets of Karabal, bullets just miss them (why are these guys using Schmeisser MP40’s, are they Nazi remnants?) and they wind up at the salt mine again, where Stork is waiting. They discover to their horror THAT NOTHING HAS BEEN PACKED!!!
Cabot: [smelling a rat or something bad] “What’s the story, Mackle?”
[Mackle points pistol.]
Cabot: “Aw, sh*t!”
Mackle: “Thees ees a reeel shame, Cabot.”
[Huge burst of automatic gunfire, Mackle he go owwww, he dead.] Production designer and art director very angry, scratch one glass door and the whole office.
Paley: “I always said that Special Operations should have handled this whole operation.”
[Two guys burst in, Paley cuts them down with a slow motion burst from his AK 47 (huh?).]
Paley: “Double blackmail. [gives camera a goofy look] Well, that takes care of things here, you’ll leave in the morning.”
Cut to a river down which our heroes are travelling in a dingy dinghy to Parmistan (??) and the heroine is trying not to get her hair wet. They make landfall and are immediately attacked by a bunch of ninja like warriors (Ninja Zombies?) who, after getting knocked about by our hero, open up a can of proverbial whoop-ass on Cabot and kidnap his girl. Again. Fade to black as Johnny Boy gets clonked on the head.
Cue wolf howls. This is actually the hungry cast moaning for food and their pay cheques. Cabot wakes up in a room being caressed by a toothless, mute urgh ugly lady. Standing over him is Zamir (Richard Norton, yes, the same guy who smoked his Dad) who welcomes him with an expression that suggests either that someone has farted terribly in the room or one of his ninjas has his bo staff jammed up his boss’ rear end. Zamir leaves Cabot to be caressed by the mute one.
The Khan (stylin’ hat, man!) explains the game rules to the assembled warriors and gives them courage and assurance for the game that anyone violating the rules will be instantly killed. Gee, thanks. The Khan (how’s that Brooklyn accent, Buck?) then says “Excuse me now, gentlemen, I must go play king for my people.” He greets his people with what is probably the Parmistanian version of “Yo, wazzup?” namely the cry of “Yakmullah!” He magnanimously lets three prisoners go free…..to play the game. Needless to say, all of these poor guys are slaughtered ~ Zamir even kills one of his own Ninja Zombies when he breaks the rules, showing us what a nice guy Zamir is. He is hard, fair and a stone killer.
Cue wildlife shot and we are at a party. There is a table of champions and some gooey-eyed looks between Ruballie and Johnny. Here we meet Thorg (Bob Schott), a man mountain whose primary function in life and in this film it seems, is to make Cabot’s day by killing him, one is never told why, but that’s showbiz for you. One is never told if he is the reigning Game champ, but, considering what happens to him in the forest and later in the village, he wouldn’t even be able to fight his way out of an outhouse. Cabot recognizes him as a fellow athlete: Thorg blows him off. There is also another person at the”table of champions” who we see once and never again, perhaps she chickened out? Zamir is also there and jealously starts showing off with two ‘sai’ weapons tucked into his pants. After this show-off display, serious damage to certain members of the cast (especially Zamir’s members) and introductions by the Khan, Johnny meets the Princess who warns him that he is going to get his butt seriously kicked by Zamir tomorrow if Cabot doesn’t stop playing hide the sausage with Zamir’s girl. Duh. Fight time: two Ninja Zombies suck wall courtesy of Cabot’s feet. Okay, we then cut to the courtyard of the castle the next morning. Cabot gets threatened by Zamir, but what he should worry about is standing right behind him and not muttering such sweet nothings as “Death becomes you” into his left ear, namely the hulking Thorg who trips Cabot up when the Game starts and kicks him in the face for good measure.
The Game starts in earnest with Cabot hiding in a cornfield (this was used again in “Blind Fury” also written by this film’s screenplay writer Charles Robert Carner) and trying to escape his pursuers before they kill his ass or before Jeff Probst kicks him off Survivor. He manages, by hook, crook or sheer idiocy to evade getting turned into porridge in the cornfield and also getting nailed in the back by an arrow when he is climbing the cliff. No such luck for the poor bugger climbing the rope next to him, down he go and dead he be. Oh, hang on, there’s more: Zamir tries to fry Cabot by setting fire to the rope he’s climbing on. When this fails, Zamir throws a paddy and chucks away the still burning torch, causing a bigger fire. Cabot makes it to the top of the cliff safely (it’s amazing how fast you can climb when your ass is about to become toast!) and his next target is the gorge where his father took a nose-dive onto the rocks, courtesy of Prince Zamir.
Uh oh, black screen……..where’s the editor? Someone else gets hit on the head, and falls into the gorge. Despite Zamir chopping the rope, Cabot makes it to the other side and kicks one of Zamir’s NZ’s into the gorge. Thorg is still after him though (“The finish line for you is right here, Cabot.”) and while these two are kicking each other’s butts, we see Zamir directing his soldiers / ninja zombies to use Cabot for target practice. Cabot hears most honourable master say “Hear the only sound of axe. Cutting air.” and gets his ass out of the way: Thorg, hearing nothing except the pee trickling gently down his leg, gets nailed in the chest by an arrow. Bye Thorg, it’s been a pressure knowing you.
“Cuckoos next hey? Yeah, don’t waste your breath.” Marvellous line from Kurt to one of the NZ’s, I wish I wrote that one. Well I did. Just now. Okay, now to the village of the crazies, housing people who didn’t pay their TV license, have traffic fines outstanding, and still have a few installments owing on the bread knife. These guys are out for blood, or beer or just a partyyyyy…..something like those, anyway. Wait up……..what happened to John Barrett, a.k.a. Gomez?
Oh there he is: nailed to the door by a variety of gardening tools and a friendly dog licking his spilled blood up. Ewww. This place is seriously creepy, smoky dry ice everywhere, people laughing for no reason, a woman that sounds alarmingly like a crow, guys with hospital gowns on (check that ass…..yuck!) and one guy who forgets that you shouldn’t touch a cold pipe with a warm hand. No problem, quick slash with a razor-sharp object, quick cut to a severed hand still holding onto the pipe. Aha: time for two face man! Two face man challenge Cabot. Cabot no run away. Two face man get two cheeks of butt kicked. Twice, once for every face. Along the way, Thorg (still alive, looking like someone has spilt a chocolate milkshake on his shirt) attacks Cabot and gets turned into sushi by the locals and the pigs have a feast.
Cabot starts running away from the people chasing him and the dogs running in slow motion. Uh oh…trap, Cabot runs straight into the village square and gets himself surrounded by a bunch of crazies trying to sell him things that were rejected on ‘Home Improvement’. What’s this? Ah, a eighteenth century pommel horse! Right, Kurt has some ass-kicking for you. No time to chalk up, just kick or die! Kick, swing, kick, knock down, swishing sounds on the soundtrack, Kurt runs away with all of the loonies in pursuit. All of a sudden, things start to slowwwwwwww down. Even the dogs start running in slow motion. The townspeople also start screaming in slow motion. Cabot is trapped in an alley and tries to climb his way out. Nahh, me too much of a wussy, can’t make it. One of the rooftop NZ’s approaches. Extends his hand. Cabot looks up. Yeah, right. I’ll grab your hand, you’ll drop me and the psychos’ll have my ass. The NZ pulls him up, pulls off his mask. Hi Dad!
Cabot Sr and Jr get away, embrace and Sr gets nailed in the back by an arrow. Shot by Zamir. Again. Dad collapses after saying “Win, Johnny…”. Now Meester Kurt, he seriously p**sed off and starts laying the opposition low, one by one while Dad is no doubt screaming “No wait, you *&^%$#@ loser! Help me with this arrow first, then win!”
Meanwhile, back at the castle, the dopey Khan has realized that Zamir is up to no good, Ruballie strips down to her cat-suit (scrummy!) and both of them (aided by the rabble in the courtyard) kick the seven colours of crap out of the Ninja Zombies. Cabot is pursued by Zamir and throw some hands. Cabot traps the unlucky Zamir between his legs and his BO makes Zamir first throw up and then die. Or was it the other way around? Dunno.
Back at the castle, a messenger passes along the message that for the first time in 900 years, someone has won the game and Johnny Boy (plus wounded Dad who still has the arrow in him) is seen coming up on his horse. Ruballie joins them, freeze frame on the two of them, fade out. Uh, Whazzat title about Star Wars? Oh, never mind.
Oy, what was I thinking?