Friday, November 7, 2008
Gymkata: Nonsensical Gymnast Karate Fantasy with Mullets
I've heard about "Gymkata" for years. I remember seeing it in the store back in the day, but even as a kid it looked a little lame to me. I mean, a gymnast action movie? As an adult I have sought it out, but never "lucked" out and found it at the exact moment when I had the money to buy and I was in the mood to buy it. That moment when the stars aligned just so and Gymkata and I were inexorably drawn to one another. That moment occurred this past summer while one of the greatest video stores on earth, Video Galaxy XVI was closing in Yarmouth. Video Galaxy towered above Route 28, which runs through Yarmouth like some sort of cancerous growth. In fact, it was located right across that evil thoroughfare from a McDonalds and a Blockbuster Video. In an example of bullheaded stubbornness, sticktoitiveness or a combination of these traits, the owner of the Galaxy refused to fold when the evil Blockbuster moved into town. That shitty company claimed the lives of the best video stores in my home town of Orleans: Video Empire and East Orleans Video, so I love to see people fighting back.
I first entered Video Galaxy in the summer of 2003, a summer where for whatever reason, I watched alot of movies. I would drive the 20 minutes from Orleans to Yarmouth to RENT movies from this place. That's how good the selection was. All the titles were faced sideways and the shelves went from the floor to like 10 feet in the air. You had to get up on something to reach the top two shelves. It was one of those now scarily rare video stores that had opened in the early to mid 80s during the VHS boom and had purchased damn near every video ever released. They had stuff in there that I've never seen anywhere except recently on places like the excellent Critical Condition website.
This place was really classic, and sadly, it recently closed. They were doing fine business, but the owner, who was a really cool old guy, was just too old to run it anymore and nobody would buy the business from him. Finally the slime buckets from Gotcha Video, a porn shop, bought it. I don't call them slime buckets because they ran a porn shop, they were just really slimy, gross guys. Anyways, they bought it and started selling off the inventory. I thought they would try to turn it into a giant porn shop, but they just wanted to sell all the movies and close it up.
I believe they started selling the inventory in March, I didn't find myself in there till around April, and even though it had already been picked over, there was still enough great stuff in there that I would go up every two weeks or so and buy like 10, 15 videos. I'm still getting through them.
I guess that just recently the place finally closed its doors. I would just like to say R.I.P. Video Galaxy XVI, it was the best video store on Cape Cod, and one of the best I've ever been to. At least since the 80s.
So, I settled down to watch "Gymkata" with some PBR last night. There really isn't much to say about PBR that hasn't already been said. I love it. Its cheap and it tastes good. I would like to pull hipster rank and say that I started drinking it way before it was popular. Like 99. People at Umass thought I was fucked up for drinking it, then they found out it was $9 a case and everyone started drinking it. Not saying I'm responsible for its now ubiquitous stance in the "hip" world, but I'd say that I came to the realization that it was delicious and cheap without anyone else telling me that. I was 19 at the time and simply gave my buyer $10 and told her to get the most beer she could for the money. Once I had my first PBR night, I preached it like the gospel. I can remember going to Westfield State and bringing PBR and my friends there thinking I was from another planet.
A beer as good as PBR sells itself, though, its too good for how cheap it is. Its like crack. The first guy that did crack then told everyone how great it was doesn't deserve a trophy. But I do.
Anyways, "Gymkata". I knew that this movie was about a gymnast who does like gymnast/karate, but I wasn't prepared for how totally bizarre it is. The opening has a gymnast doing flips on the high bar in slow motion. It cuts from that to a bunch of Mongolian looking dudes on horses chasing a guy down in slow motion. "Wha?" I asked the TV.
Turns out, the Gymnast and the Mongolians will collide! The Mongolians are actually residents of a place called Parmistan (is that where Chicken Parm was born? Eh? Eh?), a tiny mountain nation in the Hindu Kush range. (Is that where the Purple Kush comes from? Eh? Eh?) Parmistan looks medieval, but the film is set in the current 1985 world. The Parmistinians have something called "The Game" that everyone who enters the country must compete in. The Game consists of the newcomers running through a big obstacle course with ninja looking warriors chasing them. If the newcomer lives, he is granted one request. If he loses, he dies. No foreigner in 900 years has won.
Secret agents want to put a Star Wars station in Parmistan, and they figure a goofy gymnast with a mullet is just the guy to compete in the game. So, we have the inevitable training montage. His trainers are a big black guy and a little Chinese guy. The Chinese guy makes him chop wood, and sits nearby with an eagle (this is never explained and we never see the eagle again), telling him to listen to the sound of the axe cutting the air. As the gymnast gets better, he wears weirder clothes, eventually settling on a sweater that looks like something from a Renaissance fair.
So, once he's good enough, they send him to Parmistan. There is a strong anti-American sentiment, and he and his friends are ambushed. There is a great scene where a group of bad guys are chasing him and he ducks into an alley. There just happens to be a high pole there. So, he jumps up and starts doing gymnast stuff. As he flips around he kicks each bad guy in the face. Then he kicks a guy riding a bike by the alley in the face. It doesn't sound too funny on paper, or whatever they print websites on...air? Circuits? Anyways, its a really funny scene, mainly because the direction in this film is really inept so everything looks goofy.
Finally he makes it to the secret capital of Parmistan where the game takes place and hangs out with the Khan, who just kind of looks like an old Jewish guy with a bad comb-over but wears big fur hats like Genghis Khan. There are some lame plot developments that I won't go into, but I'll say that the Khan's right hand man, Zamir, looks like a buff Kenny Loggins with a rattail. Oh, and there is another bad guy named Thorg who looks awesome. The film goes forward with standard "most dangerous game" action where the ninjas and Zamir hunt down the contestants and the gymnast advances by the skin of his teeth.
The film takes a serious turn towards the bizarre when the gymnast stumbles into a town where Parmistan has placed all of its criminally insane. There is way too much insane imagery and strangeness in this sequence to write about here, but I will say that it makes the entire movie worth watching. One thing worth noting is that in Crazy Town, they have a stone pommel horse in the center of town, which helps the gymnast out quite a bit, because then he can do pommel horse shit and knock twenty people out with his feet.
The gymnast wins the game and gets the princess and that's it. Its an incredibly weird and bad film, but besides the Crazy Town segment, not quite insane enough to get my full recommendation. Still an alright flick to pop a few tops to.