The Miami Connection is a 1980’s Martial Arts film. It’s not “the greatest,” but at the same time it kind of is. It has all the hallmarks of a classic Martial Arts movie. It has the punches and kicks that never land, yet somehow yield melodramatic bad-guy, butt kicking results. It pits unarmed good guys against gun and sword wielding baddies. It has overbearing, patriarchal figures that are ready to lay the hurt on anyone and anything that comes between them and their drug dealing game. Most importantly, it has a motorcycle ninja cartel. It also has people who stay “friends forever’ through “honesty,’ and “loyalty.” That’s all nice, but it’s not what makes this film.
The catch to the Miami Connection is that the people who made the film are the ones who both helped, and hurt it the most. Their passion and perseverance is what is so inspiring, and matches the spirit of the film that they made, but their lack of experience making movies is what hurt it the most when they first tried to take it to market in the 80’s. It’s far from greatness, but now, years later, it has acquired a cult status which allowed Drafthouse Films to re-release it in December of 2012, and it’s 25th anniversary is rapidly approaching on August 26th (2013).
The movie—the story itself— is riddled with plot holes and character flaws. The script is full of unnecessary scenes, lines, and interactions that do nothing to move the plot forward. One such scene involves the head drug dealers’ sister walking through a gym (where the drug dealers’ henchmen work out and practice TaeKwon-Do of course) getting harassed by his henchmen. There are no repercussions for them, nor is it ever referenced again. That’s number one. Next, our hero doesn’t even make an appearance until fifteen minutes into the film! He’s on the posters and cover art for gosh sakes! “SPOILER:” The movie revolves around a club needing a house band. For some reason that is never explained, the new band makes it very difficult for the drug dealer to sell coke inside the club. Maybe because the last band members were his number one customers or something? END “SPOILER.”
On the technical side, things are good and bad. There are some incredible continuity errors. For instance, there’s a scene where this guy parks a car, and in the course of him parking, it goes from sunny, to rainy, and back to sunny again. Yes. There’s a car-parking scene. The daytime shots are very ugly at times, but the nighttime shots are beautiful. Almost every setup where lighting had to be used looks beautiful. Consider, also, the amount of organization required for the giant crowd scenes in the club when Dragon Sound (our hero’s band) is playing. Organizing that many people to get a crowd shot from folks who haven’t made a movie before is very, very impressive. Maybe that’s just me though.
What is inspiring about this film is the story about it’s making and release to DVD and BluRay late last year. Y.K. Kim, the “Hyphenate,” or director - actor- producer - writer – Et al. wanted to make a film that showcased TaeKwon-Do. He thought that the movie could be used to promote the benefits of having martial arts in someone’s life. He wrote a book, which sparked the interest of a young, Korean director who approached him about making it a film. Kim poured his money, his friends’ money, the banks money, and mortgaged his martial arts school to make the movie to the tune of one million dollars. When it was finished, he shopped it around Hollywood, but no one would touch it. According to him, they called it “trash,” and “trashy.” He could not believe it, so he screened it at the Cannes Film Festival in France, inviting all the international buyers to see his film. He got the same response, and the advice that he should “reshoot it” to make the bad guy win. This was the 80’s after all, and the story of the anti-hero was selling strong in movies like “Scarface,” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
When Drafthouse films in Texas finally contacted him about releasing the film, he thought it was a joke. Why would anyone want to buy his “trashy” film? After years of rejection, the film fell away into obscurity for decades until a print was purchased by the Texas movie house off of ebay for $50. It became a cult hit at midnight screenings, and they wanted to give it the full treatment. Kim attended a screening. At ten thirty, only fifteen people were in the audience, a disparaging number that brought back the fear, anxiety, and feelings of failure experienced years before. It was a cruel joke, but he stuck it out, and was overwhelmed by the eleven o’clock packed house. People stopped him in the lobby, shook his hand, took pictures, and commented on how much they loved his movie and how much it meant to them.
Now that’s pretty awesome. Considering how much coke is purported to have been consumed in the U.S. during the 1980’s (hundreds of tons were imported) with lots of it finding its way to Hollywood, I’m surprised they weren’t willing to buy the movie in hopes of taking a bump off of those ninja swords.
Ary, John, prod. Miami Connection Interview. Perf. Y.K. Kim, and Writ. Joe Diamand. Ain't It Cool News, 2012. Web. 30 Jul 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvJNCHTPpi0>.
Various, perf. MIAMI CONNECTION [Making Of] - "Friends For Eternity" Part 2. drafthousefilms, 2013. Web. 29 Jul 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLFZ4bBGOGg>.
Juzwaik, Rich. "Miami Connection: So Bad It's Essential." Gawker. Gawker Media, 09 11 2012. Web. 30 Jul. 2013. <http://gawker.com/5959146/miami-connection-so-bad-its-essential>.
"Miami Connection." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikipedia, 10 07 2013. Web. 29 Jul 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami_Connection>.
Mancini, Vince. "‘Miami Connection’ has a new trailer. Praise Jesus." FilmDrunk. Uproxx, 19 09 2012. Web. 29 Jul. 2013. <http://filmdrunk.uproxx.com/2012/09/miami-connection-trailer-drafhouse-synth-pop-karate-classic>.
The Cocaine Fact - http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/cocaine/a-short-history.html