Review - Miami Connection



Loads of exciting films are coming out at the moment (Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Marriage Story) and I have not had a chance to see a single one of them because I am both busy and lazy. What I did get a chance to do though was see Miami Connection in a proper cinema with my flatmates and there is little I would rather write about right now than that, so here we are. Let's start with some background though, what the hell is this film and why was I so excited to pay cash to see it? Miami Connection is, in the great tradition of "so bad it's good" cinema, the brainchild of one man, Y. K. Kim, the star, producer, co-writer and uncredited director. He's originally from Korea but moved to Orlando and became a teacher of taekwondo, eventually spinning that off into a series of instructional videos, books and seminars. Eventually, somewhere in there, Kim saw his opportunity to make a film that would spread his message of taekwondo, love and world peace through a kick-ass 80s action film. He was so confident in this film that he took it to the Cannes film festival. Yes, the real, actual, most respected film festival in the world. Every single producer rejected the film but a few years ago, the American cinema chain Alamo Drafthouse discovered a lost copy of the film. They put it on, realised they had stumbled on cinematic gold and quickly started distributing the film, much to the delight of trash connoisseurs like myself.
Surprises are never far away when you're a rock band who know martial arts and beat up stupid cocaine dealers 
Now that we've established how Miami Connection got here, what is the film about? I'm glad you asked, figment of my imagination. It is the tale of a rock band called Dragon Sound, who have to use their powers of friendship and taekwondo to defeat the band whose prestigious club spot they stole, a gang trying to sell cocaine (whose leader is the brother of the female singer in the band), as well as ninjas, obviously. In the mean time, Dragon Sound will hang out either at University of Central Florida (because despite how it looks, they are all indeed Uni students) or in the house they all live in together, sharing what is apparently the one shirt they communally own. They're a band brought together by many things like their love of rocking out, practising taekwondo and the fact that they are all orphans who have to look out for each other. Surprises are never far away when you're a rock band who know martial arts and beat up stupid cocaine dealers though and it soon turns out that Jim's dad is actually alive, which the group celebrate with a lot of unnecessary physical contact. This all leads to a finale which has to be seen to be believed, in which the non-lethal methods of the past 80 minutes are abandoned for straight up, katana wielding murder. It is nonsense, not in the sense that The Room or Neil Breen's films are with unnecessary complications, but rather in how it manages to delightfully mangle such a simple premise. Yeah, delightfully mangled, that seems like the appropriate thesis statement for this film.

Often with bad films, one of the greatest joys to be found is in how awful the acting is and I am delighted to confirm that this is exactly the case with Miami Connection. Let's start with the star of this joint, Y. K. Kim as Mark (what is it with bad films and characters called Mark?). Bless him, being from Korea, he doesn't have the greatest grasp on the English language and even with countless uses of dubbed dialogue, he mangles every single line he is given. While he can't act though, he is legitimately great at taekwondo, something that translates into pure cinematic delight in the action scenes (which, don't worry, I will be getting to). As his fellow bandmates/housemates/lovers(?), we have an eclectic group of folks. There's Vincent Hirsch as John, who gets one too many scenes of him making out with his girlfriend and nowhere near enough scenes of him with blood streaming off his screaming face, Maurice Smith as Jim giving the single greatest delivery of the phrase "Oh my God" that you will ever hear, as well as Angelo Janotti who I love because of his delightful moustache and perm. All of these other bandmates seem to be just as ill equipped at line delivery, music playing and general charisma as Kim is, only they're nowhere near as good at martial arts as he is, leading to some deliciously incompetent fight scenes. The thing is, even though they are all decisively not good at what they're doing, there is something inherently charming about how badly they're doing it. Bad acting is one of the easiest things to spot in bad films, but it's also one of the things that most endears you to it. So much about this film has clung to my heart, little more so than how atrociously some of the lines are delivered here. Everyone sucks in the best way possible.
Suddenly, we've moved from decently done taekwondo into a blood spattered realm of hell, in which grimaces from the oldest looking 20 year olds you have ever met bookend murder committed with an almost admirable joy.
I've been holding off too long, let's start talking about the action in this film and how beautifully it bombs. Last year, when I reviewed the boring dumpster fire that was Mile 22, I took a brief moment to break down what generally makes action scenes work. The long and short of that is that a punch thrown should connect in the same shot to make the audience really feel it. What is funny about Miami Connection is that it does kind of adhere to that thesis. Because of Kim's martial arts training, many of the scenes are fairly long takes of dudes running at him, getting kicked in the head/chest/dick (delete as appropriate) and then running off screen so the next guy can have his turn. Even the other band members stick to this, having clearly had some training before shooting by Kim and turning that into barely passable martial arts action. Much of the film is this, joyously naff bishy bashy scenes between a bunch of dudes who have been taught how to do exactly two moves about four minutes before the camera started rolling, except then the film takes a turn. Maybe this is considered a spoiler but I wouldn't call it such and if you are reading this hoping to avoid a complex discussion of the socio-economic repercussions of Mark's decisions at the end of Miami Connection, you're a fool but a delightfully optimistic one. As the team take Jim to see his dad, they are attacked by ninjas and so they steal katanas from the ninjas and start going to murder town. Leading up to this, there have been a few scenes with goofy 80s gore but we elevate to an entirely new plane of existence here, as there are decapitations, brutal looking chest wounds and dudes start dripping blood. Suddenly, we've moved from decently done taekwondo into a blood spattered realm of hell, in which grimaces from the oldest looking 20 year olds you have ever met bookend murder committed with an almost admirable joy. It never fails to elicit that Henry Jordan Cackle™ and I'm yet to introduce a group of people to this who don't succumb to a similar fate.

Dragon Sound aren't just a group of pals who like to commit homicide at the weekend though, they're also a rock band and damn it if they don't unironically rock, at least a little bit. This is a shock because (and I say this from a place of love) almost every other thing we have seen or heard from the rest of the film has been very poorly done. Even over the opening of the film, there's a fairly generic electric guitar riff over tough looking dudes, it isn't a promising start to a new dimension of rock and roll. At which point, we cut to a stage and a man walks out and introduces the one, the only, Dragon Sound. The audience cheers, lights spin to the stage and a bunch of misfits, rogues and scruffy looking nerfherders begin jamming out. And it. Is. GLORIOUS. Their first song is called Friends, where the chorus includes lines like "Friends for eternity, loyalty, honesty, we'll stick together through thick and thin" and "we're on top 'cause we play to win", both of which are riding a fine line between overly earnest declarations of the themes of the film and confession to partaking in casual gay sex. Later, we get another full song called Against the Ninja, which the band wrote because they are about to go against the ninja. It is so on the nose it's almost incomprehensible but the roaring guitars, sincere crooning and exquistely dumb lyrics come together to make genuinely unforgettable songs. Again, don't just take this from me. Every time I have shown this film to people, at least one person will start singing one of the songs later in the night and other people in the group usually join in pretty quickly. Dragon Sound's titular Sound is not one you will be forgetting easily, probably for the right reasons.
I would only say you shouldn't watch [Miami Connection] if you actively hate fun
I hope I've sold you on this film, it's about as close to the pure joy cinema can offer that I've seen. Many people who read this blog aren't veterans of bad films like I am, I know that. Miami Connection transcends that. In the same way that I think everyone should watch The Room at some point in their lives, there is such an exceptional joy to the very being of Miami Connection that I would only say you shouldn't watch it if you actively hate fun. Technically, no, this is a bad film, but in my heart, I would be lying if I said this film deserves anything other than a


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