Off the Shelf…Drafthouse Films’ ‘Miami Connection’

Story has it that one afternoon in 2009, a curator from Austin, TX’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema stumbled across an eBay listing for a 35mm print of something called “Miami Connection.” The Alamo bought Connection unseen and just as blindly added the print to their film archive. Like opening a time capsule that no one (including the people involved with the film) hoped would ever be found came a film that most likely would be a dud. Well luck favored the Alamo that day as Miami Connection was not a bad investment. Quite the opposite in fact as this deliciously wretched B-Movie has been wonderfully accepted at off-beat festivals and movie houses across the country instantly becoming a mainstream cult classic.

The film, more of an outline than a script, seems like a concept (one written by a 12 year old) that is too overblown and crazy to exist. Well it does and equally absurd, it’s like taking Chuck Norris, Care Bears, and Cocaine and throwing them in a blender. Does that makes sense? No, well that’s OK because neither does Miami Connection.

A bizarre, fault ridden film from the late 80’s, no one can help but at laugh Miami Connection. It is very good at being a very bad film and vice versa. Connection, even by the standards of its time is still a minefield of errors. Like the barrage of humorously unprovoked and repeated mass fight sequences there’s something remarkable lurking in every frame…remarkably bad. Think Troll 2 but with ninjas and ridiculous facial hair. After all this time however, it’s been accepted as a fun nostalgic romp, not unlike looking at really old yearbook or prom photos. Sometimes it’s fun to enjoy in someone else’s misery and this film is no different.

The star and bright shining hope for the film is Y.K. Kim. A Tae Kwon Do Grandmaster his fight moves are exceptional and choreography (his and Dragon Sound’s) is quite good. But this film, and the rest of the components are likened to like a three legged dog trying to run up hill. The production just doesn’t have the talent to match its ambition or enthusiasm. Worse yet, the film loses whatever momentum it gets through its trifecta of terrible writing, poor (improvised) acting and abysmal editing. But said lame canine does succeed in winning points with its heart and commitment. With the benefit of retrospect this film can been seen as a possible allegory to Y.K. Kim’s personal immigration to the US and over adversity in a new country. But that might be looking too much into it.

Mistakes are everywhere as scenes cut and end like they’re missing dialog (or maybe they just didn’t have enough material to begin with). Add to that things like ADR/very bad dubbing mistakes and earmarks of amateur filmmaking pops out of every corner. Really it’s a joy to watch because while you ask “how the hell did this get made?” it kind of reminds us that we overlook similar things in films we love. So while its not good, its honestly not all bad either. Miami Connection‘s laughable attempt at being a serious actioner becomes its inherent charming and almost redeeming novelty even as it goes down in awkward and awful flames.

Now Connection gets a pass from time to time but most of it is unanimously pretty terrible. There are a number of reviewers out there hyping this is the greatest B-movie martial arts flick but that might be post-festival hype perpetuating itself. Setting the record straight, as fun as it can be, this is no gem. It is the equivalent of moving out if your college apartment and finding a Cheeto under your couch. As gross and dated as that Cheeto is, were you to sample it out of morbid curiosity, you’d find it goes down fairly easy but the years have added much to its already intoxicating levels of cheese.

In all fairness, Kim and crew didn’t set out to make a bad movie. In fact they try their damndest to make something serious. But this wouldn’t be in the Alamo library and fun to laugh at if it didn’t all go tragically wrong. The good news is that looking back now its funny and good-hearted instead if being plain pitiful. There are spots of unexpected brilliance. They’re rare, but they are there. Something like the “Against the Ninja” song  (a song about fighting ninjas before our heroes even face off against them) is either very meta, insanely clairvoyant or conversely chalked up to simply just poor screenwriting and again bad editing. But you can’t really lambaste or critique anything after 30 years right? So sit back and have a laugh. It’s a good bet the crew is doing the same now due to the renewed interest and second wind that Drafhouse Films has given it.

G-S-T RULING:

Miami Connection comes from the 80, a time in which anything could have and indeed did go. It’s not a video nasty, nor is it a rediscovered gem from that era. It’s a film that only thanks to The Alamo and die-hard cult fans has helped bring this out of video store obscurity. If you have a soft spot for 80s flicks (nostalgia not withstanding) Miami Connection at best deserves a place in your video library and at worst warrants a viewing with either action junkie friends or a six-pack close at hand. Either one helps guarantee this to be a fun trip down memory lane replete with loyalty, honesty and stupid cocaine. Thank God for the Alamo and their intuition right?