Rating "Gymkata" is an exercise in futility. I ended up with three stars, all for unintentional hilarity. The concept of making world champion gymnast Kurt Thomas (as Jonathan Cabot) train in a totally new style of martial art combining traditional fighting techniques with gymnastics, then sending him on a secret mission to "Parmistan" to secure a base for a US "Star Wars" operation makes the mind reel. Needless to say the movie is wildly unsuccessful as a serious action film, but is rife with comedic moments.
Thomas' acting is more wooden than any of the oaks, beeches, or larches he spends the better part of the movie running through, not than even an accomplished thespian could make much of this mess. You know you're in for a rough ride when the film starts with clips of a gymnastic routine intercut with a stampede of Mongols riding horses. We then get the backstory about the whole Star Wars base in Parmistan. Since the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI,) commonly referred to as "Star Wars" in the press, used satellites, how is it they need this one forsaken strip of land in the Hindu Kush? Explain, please. Anyway, suspending disbelief just a bit more, he trains for two months by chopping wood and walking up stairs on his hands so he can compete in "The Game" which has not been won by a non-Parmistanian in 900 years. It's a savage game and involves spears, ropes, impalings, etc. But Jonathan has no issues competing as his father had previously disappeared in Parmistan playing the Game. Understand that the winner of the game gets to live, and the Parmistan government grants the winner one wish, which Thomas will use to get the Star Wars base. Of course governments in that part of the world are just known for being reputable, honorable, and keeping their word, so I can't see any problems with this premise in the least.
Jonathan, of course, falls in love with Princess Rubali (Tetchie Agbayani), who is to be wed to the evil Zamir (Richard Norton), because the idiot King (Buck Kartalian) trusts him, despite the obvious facts that Zamir is effectively running the country for his own nefarious purposes. Ironically, "Gymkata" was filmed in Yugoslavia before a very real civil war tore it apart just a couple of years later. How's that for foreshadowing? To help him blend into the crowd of gray-clad Eastern Europeans, Thomas elects to play the Game in a bright red shirt. His plan is certainly cunning. The Game itself is a procession of ugly people doing ugly things to other ugly people, and features such poignant vignettes as some sort of monk in a buttock-baring hospital robe attempting to distract him to death, the worst pig feeding scene (with accompanying ridiculous escape) in movie history, and, my personal favorite scene in the film, when he beats up an entire village using a pommel horse thoughtfully placed in the middle of the village square for the use of death-gymnasts. This must be seen to be believed.
Much of the chase is in slow motion (as if the movie needed to drag on longer,) but when it wraps up it concludes very quickly with the stunning revelation that Jonathan's Dad is still alive, although within about two minutes of Jonathan's arrival his Dad gets shot in the back, which results in the ultimate one on one gymkata vengeance round, while simultaneously the King and Princess (in a lovely all black catsuit) start a revolution (or anti-revolution, if you like) to take control back from Zamir. Obviously Jonathan wins the Princess' heart and a title card tells us that the US built its Star Wars station in Parmistan in 1985.
This movie is utterly relentless in its badness. The concept, casting, direction, and acting are universally terrible. Thomas is completely unviable as an actor, and the film fails on any serious level. It does wildly succeed as an example of anti-art, and is worth examination by lovers of cheesy movies everywhere (it would have made an excellent episode of MST3K.) The only good thing about the film is the excellent and wholly suitable Yugoslav location, which was a great (and low cost) touch.
Extras are slim; I would have loved to hear a commentary track from Thomas and noted martial arts director Robert Clouse. Instead all that's offered is a theatrical trailer for the film and a bonus (and extremely incongruous) trailer for "The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning" starring Willie Nelson, which looks, if anything, even worse than "Gymkata," which may be the precise reason it's featured as an extra here. It's a futile attempt to make "Gymkata" look better by comparison, but at this point there's really nothing to do but grasp at straws.