Miami Connection: Ninjas, Friendship, and 80s; oh my!

Guilty Pleasure | Connor Fineran | April 7, 2016

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The critical aspect of bad movies that often gets overlooked in my opinion is that, like anything, there’s a range to it.

Namely, there’s bad movies, but there’s different kinds of bad movies. There’s films so laughably awful that they’re ironically enjoyable (“Battlefield Earth,” “The Room,” “Plan 9 from Outer Space”).

Zookeeper (2011), Happy Madison Film (IMDb)

Then there are films so baffling you can’t help but watch in horror and awe (“Pan”), films so obnoxious and annoying that you desperately want to eat a bullet (EVERYTHING by Happy Madison Productions in the past sixteen years; “The Cat in the Hat”), and there are films so woefully unremarkable and ordinary in how bad they are that you should just forget about them (“How the Grinch Stole Christmas”).

But there’s a different kind of bad movie to be beheld today. Something that is so earnest in its desire to entertain that I can’t help but love it to death.

And it features motorcycle ninjas who are also drug runners. In Miami. In 1987.

Enter Miami Connection, an independent martial arts-action-romance-rock musical that turns out to be as much an exercise in endearingly amateurish filmmaking as it is a period piece of the 80s.

“Somewhere in Miami,” a gang of ninjas that ride motorcycles are trying take over the seedy underworld of Miami’s drug trade.

(Drafthouse Films)

Meanwhile, a gang of orphan college students who we are supposed to buy as twenty-somethings (but all look twenty years older than that) have a sweet rock band called “Dragon Sound.” They are also all black belts in Tae Kwon Do, as one character clumsily mentions. Led by “Mark” (Y.K. Kim, the writer and creator of the film) who, in between having a face with the texture of a dinner plate and trying to speak English at least reasonably, rocks out with his bandmates while playing songs about friendship and fighting ninjas. Meanwhile, a rival band doesn’t like them and tries to off them. And somehow the ninjas are involved.

I now realize as I’m writing this that talking about “Miami Connection is really hard because there’s really not much of a story.

Seriously, things just kinda happen. Why did that guy grab a bag of cocaine and jump off a bridge in the beginning? Why is there a subplot about the token black guy trying to find his dad? Why is this scene of them going to the beach in here? What do motorcycle ninjas have to do with the band? These are the questions I found myself asking after I had finished watching it with my roommate.

checklist-movieBy all accounts, this movie makes very little sense. Characters just grow motivations and meander from scene to scene while some catchy, hilariously dated music plays over.

It’s almost as if the making of this film consisted of the crew shooting with a checklist as opposed to a script. Let’s have a scene where the band goes to the beach and have hijinks with suntanned breasts! Let’s have a scene at a biker bar with large amounts of saggy breasts (It’s Florida, remember?)! Let’s have an obscenely violent climax with an ending that preaches nonviolence! The amount of sheer incompetence on display is astounding.

And yet, I don’t hate this movie. In fact, I love it.

Apart from the unintentional humor, there’s just an earnestness to the whole thing, a real sweetness. And I mean that– the film just exudes this charm of its depiction of friends being best friends and brutally murdering ninjas.

Scene in Miami Connection (Fandango)

What makes this movie even more charming is that fact that the star Kim, who was a Tae Kwon Do practitioner and had established a string of dojos in his area, was a respected member of his community and had a lot of people he knew pitch in to help him. In fact, the band members were his students. The film premiered in 1987 before disappearing. A programmer for Alamo Drafthouse found the print on eBay of all places years later, prompting an explosion in popularity that Kim never would have anticipated.

Compared to other annals of crap cinema, this one’s a rarity in that it’s bad, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s got the easy breezy charm of a day on the beaches of Miami plus enough neon-lit 80s cheese to satisfy any synth-rock fiend.

“Miami Connection” is a film I laughed at, but one I celebrated despite its incompetence.


Featured Image: Drafthouse Films