In the 80s, your special skill would save the day no matter how ridiculous it was, and skills don't come more ridiculous than male gymnastics. We only claimed that was a thing so we had an excuse to be there when girls learned to bend like that. But there was a disastrous leak of movie-logic into reality, when one man's athletic ability not only saved but caused a movie: GYMKATA! It's billed as "The skill of gymnastics, the Kill of Karate!" That implies that karate is unskilled, which is a pretty ballsy claim for a professional male frolicker.
Below, the five moments that make Gymkata worth seeing despite, and often because of, all of those ridiculous factors ...
Kurt Thomas was a three-time World Champion Gymnast and a sure bet for Olympic gold in 1980, but missed out because the U.S. boycotted the games over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Getting this movie instead was like replacing a winning lottery ticket with an eviction notice from dignity.
Every 80s action movie started off by showing the audience that their hero is man of action, a man of danger, but most of all a man. Gymkata takes that a bit ... literally.
Maybe you should just leave now. It only triple-forward-flips downhill from here.
Now, we admit Kurt Thomas was a phenomenal athlete, but he was a terrible 'everything else.' The problem being that becoming an Olympian means absolute dedication, which means no time to focus on anything else, like "how to act" or "how to appear more threatening than a average girl scout".
Kurt Thomas plays a character named John Cabot, making him the first action hero with a less manly name than the actor. The scriptwriter must have taken one look at Kurt and decided he wasn't badass enough for the name. K-names require broad chests, Teutonic buzz-cuts and the ability to punch through tanks. Thomas's five foot five frame and fabulous flexibility would earn him a two-syllable name ending in "i" and a giggle at best.
The US needs a base for their new satellite nuclear-weapon tracking system in the tiny, presumably cheese-based country of Parmistan. Apparently because the US doesn't know how satellites work: Parmistan is about four miles across -- if your satellite needs a base there, you should probably just scrap the whole project, because it's going to hit a telephone pole before completing its first orbit anyway. Parmistan also has the distinction of being the only country where ninja are more naturally occurring than teeth. Whether this speaks ill of the peasants dental hygiene (it does,) or well of their Ninja Training Institute (it does not,) the end result is an impassive ninja posted at every street corner, often doing little more than holding up flags with directions on them. Parmistan was suffering from two problems: A nationwide lumber deficit and a ludicrous ninja surplus; they just let one problem solve the other.
This is not how he pictured his life after Ninja school.
Gymkata occupies a unique period in American history, during that fateful time when we had not yet discovered the middle ground between "Massive invasion of a foreign country" and "buying a lone gymnast a plane ticket." Torn with indecision, we flipped a coin and went with gymnast. It's a stupid plan, even by 80s' action movie standards, where the unspoken rule is that we can't officially intervene militarily, but can and absolutely will send the human embodiment of the American Spirit over there instead, to break necks with his legs, noses with his fists, and hearts with his dreamboat eyes.
In this case, Cabot was the perfect man for the job, because the only way to enter Parmistan is to win "The Game" -- an assault course built out of ninjas and crazy people. With his absolute mastery of gymnastics and questionable association with karate, Cabot is the perfect choice. And he's got personal stakes, too: The Game has already killed his father, who was a real secret agent and who probably only accepted the obvious suicide mission because he was overcome with disappointment in his male gymnast son.