Thursday, September 26, 2013

Miami Connection

Miami Connection has a sordid history behind it. I will not go into the big details surrounding the drama of its production, but just know that the movie was made in 1987, released into a small number of Florida theaters in 1988, was called “the worst movie of the year” by local critics and disappeared without a trace. Drafthouse Films purchased the rights in 2012 and gave it a full restoration and a limited release into arthouse theaters across America. It is now considered a cult classic.

The members of rock band Dragon Sound, consisting of five University of Central Florida students, become vigilantes in the name of justice to keep the Orlando streets safe from the likes of drug dealers and evil ninja motorcycle gangs.
If you are looking for a movie that epitomizes low budget 80s filmmaking, this is the one you’ve been waiting for. It has virtually everything a child of that era could possibly want in a flick – ninjas, kung-fu, gore, ample amounts of cleavage and shirtless dudes for the ladies, rock music, and even a goofy love story all passed through a fine cheese grater. This is one of the silliest movies I’ve ever seen and it has enriched my life in ways I cannot describe. Well, actually I could. I was just being overly dramatic.

Right off the bat I was hooked. We are treated to a club scene where the leads perform on stage in their band, Dragon Sound, and sing about… themselves. The song (“Friends”) serves no purpose other than providing all the character development you’re ever going to get.  Later on they sing another song called “Against the Ninja” which sets up the villains of the film and how much the heroes dislike them. I don’t know if it was intentional or accidentally clever on the filmmaker’s part to have that happen, but whatevs.
We are then exposed to the (so-called) acting from the leads. Out of them all I will only discuss the main character, Mark (played by Y.K. Kim), and one of the band members, Jim (played by Maurice Smith).

Y.K. Kim, a native of Korea, barely had a grasp of the English language at the time of filming and his mumbling dialogue recitals are more than a little painful and unintentionally hilarious. He knows how to kick some ass as he is a martial arts instructor outside the film, and his fight scenes are very fun and sometimes brutal. The problem is that he cannot act at all; a problem most of the cast shares as well. I also found it amusing that he was in his early thirties when the film was being shot and he’s playing a college student among early twenty year olds.
Maurice Smith isn’t much better, but succeeds in an endearingly oddball sort of way. He is a horrible actor as well, but he is clearly trying his hardest to be a good one. His line deliveries involving his search for his birth father (he was adopted like all the other characters) are a hoot, especially when a certain letter arrives in the mail (“Oh my GOD!!!”). He is one of the reasons to watch this movie alone.

Some of the fight scenes are laughably played out since most people are obviously whiffing with their hits, but they register against their opponent as if it were full contact. Other times the fights are acted out so slowly to allow the players to catch up or perform moves they normally cannot. Take a look at the sparring scene in the college quad where Kim fights with his band mates. They obviously don’t know thing one about martial arts and Kim slows his movements, hesitates and sometimes holds his fist/foot out waiting for the other person to come into contact with it.
A pleasant surprise was the addition of the 80s action movie staple – homoeroticism! This flick puts Commando and Showdown in Little Tokyo to shame in that department. Any scene inside the band’s home is rife with off the wall innuendos and bizarre happenings, like when Kim decides to start force feeding his roomies fruit… with his feet! As a matter of fact that’s another goofy thing I noticed; Kim loves putting his feet in people’s faces at any given time. What’s up with that?!

There’s also plenty of gore and violence once the Dragon Sound vs. ninja stuff begins to go down. There’s so many beheadings in Miami that it could be called an epidemic! The action doesn’t stop for a good while during the finale, and if there’s one thing this flick excels in it’s never being boring.
I’m not really complaining about these aspects since it is all part of the fun of Miami Connection. It’s almost like watching a train wreck – it’s horrific in every way possible, but you just can’t look away. I highly recommend it if you are fan of films like The Running Man, Cobra and some of the more low budget films of the era. It’s a fun and nostalgic ride into a time period The Expendables wishes it could successfully replicate.

3.5 out of 5

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