An American gymnast travels to a foreign country to compete in a deadly game not won by anyone other than a native in more than 900 years.An American gymnast travels to a foreign country to compete in a deadly game not won by anyone other than a native in more than 900 years.An American gymnast travels to a foreign country to compete in a deadly game not won by anyone other than a native in more than 900 years.
Everyone around here is giving such glowing remarks about the camp value of the film maybe its high time we talk about just why this movie is BAD. If you're in the mood for an epic adventure action movie, do NOT see this one with hopes of coming out with your testosterone cravings sated. Such is the curse of bad kung fu movies without genuine kung fu artists. Why did this movie fail dismally at its objective? Well I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head. First off, as alluded to, this is an action-epic type of movie with definite parallels to Enter the Dragon. Martial Artist chosen by government to go to some isolated little known area of the world to help the United States' cause by outwardly competing in some kind of competition/game.
So given its obvious reaching for Enter the Dragon memories, you would think Clouse would have made an attempt to grab some good actors, the kind of martial artists that could easily impress the audience with their moves. So who did they get? All white guys, including an olympic gold medalist in gymnastics, Kurt Thomas. So where in the martial arts action epic genre some directors sacrifice acting talent and bad english for superb martial arts (Ninja 3: The Domination, a bad movie with some pretty good martial arts), and other directors sacrifice superb martial arts for well spoken english, boyish charms, and great acting ability (David Carradine and Jeff Cooper in Circle of Iron, a must-see if you love martial arts genre whacky movies) Clouse has in this case sacrificed "acting ability" of all variations for bad english and *horrible* martial arts sequences.
Why else is this movie an utter failure at its objective? Well, part of the magic of Enter the Dragon was its theme of Shaolin martial arts. This, especially at the time, was kind of a popular mystical topic that few understood, but most everyone thought was "cool". In this way, anything Eastern involving mysticism or fighting is a veritable well of immediate movie value (hence the 80's ninja craze). The problem with this movie is it gave the feel of a popular mystic subject without using any of the popular mysticism that gives this type of movie instant entertainment value to movie-goers regardless of accuracy. The biggest attempt at this might be the name "gymkata" because it sounds kind of Eastern, and the premise of mixing western and eastern styles. But in actuality this premise is little better than a line in the movie, because there is NOTHING else in the movie to support it.
Why else? Bad sequences, choreography, and directing. When I think about this movie and Enter the Dragon, I can't help but think that Clouse truly just was not trying with this movie. Its the only way to explain his complete inept job of directing this movie. The subplots are bare and underdeveloped. The premise of the movie surrounds a "game" whose rules and dynamics are completely indescernible, baffling, and plain dumb. As previously expounded upon, the coincidences in this movie are terrible such as the infamous pommel-horse town of the crazies scene. My honest guess is that after Kurt Thomas won the gold medal, some money grubbing crazy producer (the kind responsible for making 7th sequels and whatnot) decided to capitalize on gold medal fame by starring a gymnast in a martial arts movie, then proceeding to blackmail Robert Clouse into directing such a film, and Clouse in his attempt to get back at his blackmailer, sabotaged his own film by putting a bunch of bad-acting white guys who can't fight in a martial arts genre movie, sticking in poorly developed subplots such as the love story between the princess and the gymnast, and overall making a movie that any director would sit back, watch on the big screen, take the ONLY copy of the film, lock it in an iron chest, and bury deep within the earth's core.
- Feb 24, 2001