Great bad movies are fueled by their ridiculous details. Miami Connection's are stellar to the point of bonkers. This is not just a great bad movie — it's a phenomenal one. The 1987 pulp movie played only in Orlando and then after being avoided, was forgotten. But now it's being revived by Drafthouse, showing in theaters all over the country including New York's Landmark Sunshine tonight. For sheer singularity, it merits reconsideration.
Miami Connection tells (babbles, really) the muddled story of the crime fighting multinational rock band Dragon Sound, which fights a gang of motorcycle ninjas attempting to run Florida's drug trade ("This damn...gang selling stupid cocaine," is how one Dragon Sound member manages to describe it). If the plot outline is nonsense, its nuances are on a different plane of thinking entirely. Consider:
- A scene in which actor/director/taekwondo expert/inspirational speaker Y.K. Kim goes around a room (while dialogue is being recited), feeding each of his perpetually shirtless bandmates/roommates grapes from his hand, seemingly improvising and clearly having the time of his life.
- A monologue from another band member that includes the lines, "My mother was Korean; my father was black American," as he chokes back tears. His bandmates are disappointed to find out that he wasn't an orphan like them.
- Yet another band member proposing a tour like this: "We'd visit all the countries where our parents came from: Korea, Ireland, we'd play in Israel, that's where my parents are from…Wherever we go, we visit the local taekwondo schools. We promote peace and goodwill." This was over 20 years before NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? This movie was forward thinking.
- A song on the soundtrack that I think is called "I'm a Tough Guy," because its chorus mostly goes, "I'm a tough guy." The scene ends when a tough guy inserts a Q-tip into his nose and then pulls it out.
- A love scene in which a man and woman lie neck deep in the ocean as they make out. We see repeatedly switching camera angles: one over her shoulder/at him full-on, another over his shoulder/at her full-on. There is no music. The scene ends abruptly — more so even than the Q-tip scene.
The acting is rubbery and the script falls flat often enough to feel deadpan. While watching, I checked online to make sure this thing actually existed before this revival — it's too perfectly awful to make me suspect that it was some elaborate ruse to create an incompetent-seeming, word-of-mouth sensation (IMDb reviews from over 10 years ago suggest that this is the real deal, as do the hairstyles, of course).
Interspersed in this insane attempt at communication and conveying a storyline are several martial arts scenes. Some of them jarringly gory, some of them are disjointedly impressive. Kim's direction is so incoherent it could be described as drunken. Yet the movie is tight, with one jaw-droppingly bizarre scene after another. It moves rapidly, rarely fails to bewilder and is a great reminder of how special macho melodrama can be.
Supposedly, Zack Carlson of Alamo Drafthouse, the distribution company that's handing Miami Connection's revival, paid for $50 for the film on eBay and then wanted to bring it to a larger audience. It deserves it. It's howlingly bad, mortifyingly hilarious, truly exceptional trash for a time swimming in mediocre trash. Miami Connection is a stream of ideas. They're all terrible, but they're ideas all the same. And that's more than I could say about most of this year's big-budget releases. Or any year's, really.