Today’s feature is Miami Connection, a once-lost movie that features all of the cocaine, ninjas, and 80s rock you could ever want.
Miami Connection was directed, produced, and co-written by Woo-Sang Park, who was also behind American Chinatown, Gang Justice, and LA Streetfighters. His co-writers were two of the film’s stars and co-producers, Joseph Diamand and Y.K. Kim.
The cinematographer for Miami Connection was Maximo Munzi, who also shot such films as Detonator, Scorcher, and American Chinatown.
Both the music and special effects makeup work for Miami Connection was provided by Jon McCallum, who also worked on films like Future Shock, Project Eliminator, Soultaker, and Surf Nazis Must Die.
The plot of Miami Connection centers around a group of students at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, who share a passion for taekwondo and their family-friendly rock and roll band, Dragon Sound. When Dragon Sound bumps a local gang peddling cocaine from a night club venue, their adversaries go out for revenge, and the conflict rapidly escalates.
The star of Miami Connection is Y.K. Kim, who is a noted master of taekwondo, and a local celebrity in Orlando. Apparently, he arranged most of the filming locations and extras for the movie based on his good will with the greater community. For instance, the bikers featured in the background were reportedly real local bikers from the Orlando area, and were compensated for their time in beer.
For years, Miami Connection was lost to the ages. Its theatrical release in 1988 barely broke out of Florida, and most of the screenings were limited to the Orlando area. The Orlando Sentinel apparently even named it the worst film of the year. In 2009, a programmer at Alamo Drafthouse picked up a copy on ebay, and screened it at one of the theaters. This eventually led to Drafthouse Films picking up the film for redistribution, which has led to its rising status as a cult classic.
Former Mystery Science Theater 3000 hosts Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy have announced that Miami Connection will be the lampooned feature for their Rifftrax Live event on October 1, 2015, which is bound to increase the movie’s profile even further.
Thanks to its new-found cult status, Miami Connection currently has an IMDb rating of 6.1, alongside Rotten Tomatoes scores of 69% from critics and 70% from audiences. However, I don’t think anyone would claim that it is an objectively “good” movie by any means: most of those positive reviews are acknowledging that the movie is immensely entertaining for its “good-bad” qualities.
There is so much to talk about in Miami Connection that I honestly have no idea where to start. The musical numbers and rock sequences might be what sets it apart the most from the pack of b-movies out there, and those songs are guaranteed to get stuck in your head, but the movie goes so much further than just those amazing tunes:
The acting is astoundingly terrible across the board in Miami Connection, with Y.K. Kim leading the pack with his thick accent and indecipherable dialogue. The performances are at times beyond belief, like during either of the “letter” sequences, which are some of the most bafflingly awful showcases of acting I have ever seen.
If there is anything honestly good about Miami Connection, it is the aesthetic. The look of the movie is just delightful, and you can feel how charmingly low budget it was, and how much people enjoyed being involved with it. It still doesn’t make any sense and is amateurish from top to bottom, but it sure as hell has charm. Scott Tobias sums up the movie perfectly in his review for The A.V. Club:
Hits the sweet spot between stunning ineptitude, hilariously dated period touchstones, and a touching naïveté that gives it an odd distinction.
The ending of Miami Connection takes an unexpected and dramatically dark turn for a movie about man-children singing about fighting ninjas and “stupid cocaine.” The absolute slaughter that takes place in the last few minutes feels like it belongs in a totally differently film, which just adds to how endlessly bizarre Miami Connection is on the whole (there is apparently an even darker alternate ending to the movie as well). The ending title message about pacifism is also one of the most confusing and jarring conclusions to a film I have seen since Dracula 3000, but it is somehow amazing at the same time.
Something that is never addressed in the movie is the fact that all of the central characters appear to be far too old to be living together in a small house, let alone be typical college undergraduates. Speaking of which, the University of Central Florida could not be plastered on this movie any more than it already is: if one of the main characters is wearing a shirt, there’s a 90% UCF branding is on it. I think the wardrobe might have been provided by the college bookstore.
Miami Connection is one of the best good-bad movies out there: the acting is ridiculous, the writing is silly without being aware of itself, and the plot is out-of-this world strange. If you have the opportunity to catch this one, I can’t recommend it highly enough. For bad movie fans, I would go so far as to say that Miami Connection is a must-see movie, alongside movies like Troll 2, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Birdemic, and Samurai Cop.