Sure, there are gems of cinema that can be best described as ‘so bad it’s actually kind of great.’ Carrying with it a sort of inherently dismissed schlock, the ‘so bad it’s good’ feature film has become fodder for midnight screenings, festival engagements or various other attempts at revival. However, once in a while, one of these films is discovered and instead of being simply charming in its ineptitude, one discovers that, yes, the film in question may ultimately fail, but it is ultimately a truly intriguing piece of work done in by a low budget and a director not sure about his own voice.
One of those films has just arrived on Blu-ray via Drafthouse Films, and is entitled Miami Connection. Laughed off by many as just a campy and pure-blooded 1980’s actioner, the film is a ‘bad’ film, but within each of its frames is a vital and energetic sense of life that is so true, it makes the overall picture feel more innocent and pure than a schlock masterpiece like The Room.
Directed by Grandmaster Y. K. Kim, Connection has a premise any ‘˜80s film would kill to have. Following a band named Dragon Sound (yes, this, is the type of film we’re dealing with here) as they try their best to stop the proliferation of a gang of motorcycle-driving ninjas who have taken hold of Florida’s drug trade. That’s right, anthem spewing rockers vs. loud, motorcycle-driving(?) ninjas. That’s the jist of Miami Connection.
However, with Kim at the film, the film has (even though it may not succeed in proclaiming this) something more intriguing behind its narrative.
A philosopher and black-belt martial artist, Kim is far and away the ‘star’ of this picture. Also behind the film’s screenplay, Kim (as well as co-writer and co-director Woo-sang Park) imbues within the film a sense of philosophy about its violence that while it may glorify it by scoring it to pounding ‘˜80s synth-pop, the film also carries within it a distinct anger towards the proliferation of violence. Coming out in the final frames of the film to all but scream this stance from the highest mountain, the film does find the result of violence to be the reason for emotional weight in the final act, as this entire film leads up to one final fight, set against the backdrop of one of our characters finally getting the chance to meet his father.
The entire film oozes whimsy. Never not entirely engaging, the film never truly fails. Kim stages the musical sequences like thrilling party videos, shooting these genuinely thrilling synth-pop power anthems like they are the film’s inherent thesis. Preaching the power of pure positivity, ‘Friends’ and ‘Against The Ninja’ will never be able to leave your brain after viewing the film, and while the script is hammy and the sense of style is stilted, there is a certain voice found within each frame that is slight, but beyond charming and utterly enthralling.
Performances aren’t this film’s strongest suit. Whereas the musical sequences are thrilling and genuinely fantastic, the performances, hampered by the admittedly lackluster screenplay, never give the film the sense of emotional weight that it strives for. Hammy line readings all but kill any emotional and narrative weight, and a simply bizarre final act is all but laughable. Kim does have a seemingly strong voice, particularly in his staging and belief in and of violence, and it saves the film stylistically, but these performances (save for a really quite entertaining one from Kim himself) never add but instead detract from an otherwise genuinely entertaining film.
But who am I kidding? Arguably the most entertaining ‘bad’ movie seen in years, Miami Connection will have everyone and their mother rolling on the floor in laughter the entire time. Newly released on Blu-ray via Drafthouse Films, the release comes with an admittedly mixed transfer (the film was only recently discovered after having its negative destroyed in a hurricane, which is the first thing that this release shows us), but is paired with a making up, a handful of interviews and even a commentary with Kim himself. Grab a six pack and some hairspray, and toss on one of the greatest ‘bad’ ‘˜80s films you’ve likely never seen (or at least haven’t seen in years), Miami Connection, because there is simply nothing like it. Absolutely nothing.