Movies & TV / Columns

The Man Movie Encyclopedia: Gymkata

May 1, 2020 | Posted by Caliber Winfield

Greetings, all.

I know it’s been a minute since I’ve been around, and I apologize. I live in Washington, which has been a hub for all this Covid crap, and it sent a lot of aspects of my life wayward. However, things are finally resuming some normalcy, so your boy is back in action. A very happy return at that.

So, with a return of this magnitude, I figured what better to cover, than one of the greatest B-movies ever….


We open up on a shot of an un-even bar for about 45 minutes, before we start cutting back and forth between a gymnast, and a bunch of horses chasing a dude. OK, there’s a lot to unpack here. First off, all the guys on horses have extremely ornate outfits, and the dude they’re chasing is in a grey t-shirt and crayon-green sweatpants, with the SHIRT TUCKED IN. Now, c’mon, how hard can you be competing that your shirt doesn’t even come undone? I’d have killed that asshole 5 seconds after the game began just for that. Soon we see the leader of this gang of ornately dressed ninjas, and he’s rocking a sleeveless-vest made from sheep skin. Clearly this was needed because it looks like it’s a balmy 0 degrees with a lot of moisture in the resort-esq hills of Romania. He kills the man in the green sweatpants, because as is just revealed, the leader is wearing bright-red sweatpants, and he, only he, is to be the King of K-Mart Sweatpants.
We then head to a high school gym where a dude is done demonstrating his gymnastic skills, and immediately his mentor is like “Uh, there’s this weird village where they’ve got a satellite system that could serve as a great warning system for nuclear attacks. However, old dude who runs shit won’t budge, and we need to send you in to hook it up. Oh, because also, anyone who enters this place has to fight in a game of death. If you win, you get your life, plus 1 request.” Which…I mean, that’s a very interesting immigration policy.

Mountain Village Councilman: OK, look, we make really good money from tourists. However, we’ve really been in the black…or the red…which ever the bad color is…why the fuck isn’t bad like, magenta? No one is gonna confuse magenta with good, an–
Mountain King: Can we not get into another color tirade, please…
Mountain Village Councilman: Alright…alright…either way, we need to fix this.
Mountain King: Bruh, what are you talking about? We just opened up that shop where you can see the Fat Lady, and the creature that’s a horse with the body of a rabbit and the head of a rabbit. Plus, kids love our village of crazy people, that’s always a hit!
Other Mountain Village Councilman: Alright, so….I know I’m new here, sent from New York because I screwed up the Pinsky File, but, uh…well, and call me crazy, but what…and this is just a hypothetical…but, what if we don’t make every single person who visits here enter a tornoment of death where in they fight for their life in a horrible cat & mouse game with ninjas and traps and dudes in awesome sleeveless sheep-skin vests? I mean…can we at least not force kids? They barely make it 10 feet. It’s always a bloodbath. Some of those images are really gonna haunt me.
Mountain King: Look, man, we lost out on the rights to Double Dare to that damn Nickelodeon, and it was either that or this, so…

John immediately goes into training, which involves having to walk up stairs on his hands in the shortest shorts ever, and watching the Black Star Ninja from American Ninja wear a blindfold and swing Kasurigama’s around. Oh, and the mountain village’s Princess is there….I dunno why. But her and John make out, cause, well, look at him in those shorts. They make it a point to not have her talk, and even mention the fact she doesn’t, and then she talks out of no where, and it’s never mentioned or treated like a big deal, because 80’s film making.
He meets his own version of Q, and gets some super special weapons, like ballistic knives and such. Also, it should be mentioned, ALL these weapons he shows, we never see again. He never uses them. Never takes them to the game, nothing.
Later that evening, him and the Princess go to a market, and it’s popping. I mean, shoulder-to-shoulder type shit. Well, he ends up getting jumped and whoops on these dudes with Gymkata, causing one guy to fall down just from John doing flips. When he gets back to the market, the entire place is empty. There were thousands of people, now they’re gone, zero explanation zero discussion. Well, the Princess is kidnapped so he goes and rescues her from a terrorist training camp apparently, and thankfully on his way there’s a bar for him to flip around on, otherwise he’d be toast. He rescues her, and then we literally get like 20 minutes of them being chased, spliced with footage of a dude with a machine gun shooting at shit. Seriously, they do it like 7 different times. They run, usually the same footage replayed, they hit a wall, run just in time for the bullets to hit the wall, and repeat.
He finally gets to the village, and the Princess’ men come up to welcome them, so he naturally just beats the shit out of them in the most ridiculous fashion ever.

OK…so, we see a preview of the game and get the rules as 3 criminals run for a chance at freedom. And, apparently, the gyms inside the jails here must be FANTASTIC, because 2 of these criminals are able to run 3 miles and then climb a rope like 10 stories. Are you fucking kidding me? Like this town breeds contestants for Ninja Warrior or something. So, we then learn that the Princess is gonna marry the King’s ultimate right-hand man, Zamir. A dude who never wears a shirt, because his pecs are something everyone must behold, and he has the most ROCKING rat tail ever.


This thing is like 30 feet long. It’s the most awesome. Also, he clearly has the toughest hair stylist ever, because his hair is soft, bouncy, with perfect highlights, and we know anyone who comes to the village has to play the game.

Zamir: [calls his hairstylist] Hey, uh, the weather here has been a bitch, and I’m getting knot in the back. How can I be expected to ride on my horse in a sleeveless wool-vest with shitty hair?!
Hairstylist: Dude….I gotta be honest, it’s a chore coming and cutting your hair. I’ve had to play the game like 30 times, kinda taking a toll on me, man. I saw a dude land in a spike-pit the last time.
Zamir: It’s either that or going back to Fast Cuts…

Even though this dude is known to be leading a gang that’s going to over-throw the King. A King who speaks with an American accent.


There’s also a big guy named Thor [or Thorg?]. He’s allowed to show up late, and even John tries to suck up to him, saying he’s been a fan. So, of course, they never explain who the hell this dude is or why he’s got clout.


Soon as the game begins, Thor whoops on John a bit, then catches up with the rest. My man Zamir, rocking no shirt again. And you know he does that thing where he’s standing outside where it’s freezing, and everyone is like “Aren’t you cold?” and he does the “Nah, cold weather doesn’t bother me much” even though he’s shuddering and his teeth chattering. He’s also a terrible strategist. As they’re chasing John, they get to the rope climb wall, where John and this other guy are. For no reason at all, they arrow the guy next to John, who dies. Even though that was illegal yesterday, now it’s no issue. Then, instead of doing the SAME THING THAT JUST WORKED, instead Zamir burns the rope, but John is too fast. I would probably be fired promptly if I were one of his men….

Caliber The Soldier: Uh, why not just do what worked? I mean, it JUST worked. We had the archer ready to go…
Zamir: Um, I’m sorry, but are YOU wearing just a vest in single digit weather? SINGLE DIGIT! The other day when someone asked me how cold it was outside, I literally had to say “3”. THREE!
Caliber The Soldier: Is that why you’re shivering?
Zamir: I’M NOT SHIVERING! I’m so warm. Seriously, I may even take this vest off, it’s so freaking warm out. I mean….I’d look so weird with a big, thick, warm, awesome coat, wouldn’t I? Hey, Steve, let me see your coat…*puts it on*…oh shit that’s nice…erm…I mean, see? HA HA. I look like such a dork. OK, we’re off topic…bottom line, I know strategy! Like that balance beam I put at the end of the course, he’s gonna be toast! He doesn’t know how to fight on a balance beam!

We see Thor kill one of the contestants. Will we get an answer as to why, probably not. He tries to kill John but catches an arrow instead, allowing John to finally arrive where this village keeps it’s criminally insane, that apparently have been breeding and such. Thor also arrives, but he’s quickly over-powered by the crazies.


They chase John into the center of town, where, as with all towns, there is a pommel horse. All of the city folk gather around it, and decide to attack 1 ort 2 at a time, and they’re no match for his kicks that wouldn’t really hurt because there’d be no freaking weight behind them. Also, the crazy village folk, with their extremely long-range weapons, are just plum out of ideas. So, they give chase, and he scales up a wall, where a ninja helps him up, and, out-of-the-fucking-blue, it’s his father. Who has apparently been hiding in these mountains all this time? I mean, this makes SO little sense that it’s like he parachuted into this scene. OK, so his dad has been living in these mountains for years? With a barber, apparently? And he’s looking well-fed? Seriously, what the hell?! Anyway, John and his dad who was staying at the local B&B all these years apparently, finish the game together after John defeats Zamir, as he does not have an answer for John’s gymkata. Anyway, he wins, and then they built an early warning station, and all was well. But, seriously, what the fuck is up with the father?!

1-Liners: 0
Guys Beat Up: 74
Guys Killed: 15
Swear Words: 1
Boobies: 0
Explosions: 0
Chase: 4
Broken Bones: 1
Fight/Shoot-Out At Motel?: No
Guy Get Girl? Yes
Guy/Girl Smoke?: No

Kurt Thomas’ only starring role. Understandable.

The Princess is a former Playboy model. Understandable.

Based on a book called The Terrible Game written back in the 50’s.

Gymkata is text-book B-movie goodness. I mean, it’s absolutely horrendous when you look at it from a normal gaze. The acting is god-awful, the script is worse, the editing and story-telling are ridiculous, and the action is pretty much laughable, as bad-guys literally fall because someone flipped at them. Now, that said, it’s still some of the most fun you can have watching a B-Movie. Because while all the hokey, stupid ear-marks of a B-Movie are there, it doesn’t enter boring territory, or so bad it actually becomes unwatchable. Gymkata is a lot of fun, and honestly worth a remake, as there are some pretty decent ideas here; the gymnastics/karate not withstanding.
***1/2 Head-Butts out of 5

[bonus points to whomever can tell me what movie the music used in this trailer is from]

Any questions, comments, drunk-ramblings, feel free to send them my way, I always dig hearing from you, the beautiful people.
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