Friday, November 23, 2012

Miami Connection

A few weeks ago, I saw Miami Connection at the Roxie.  There was a nice crowd on hand for a Monday night.  Miami Connection is a 1980s film which is being released by Alamo Drafthouse or more specifically their film distribution arm, Drafthouse Films.  The Roxie has brought the film back for four screenings from today through Sunday.

Miami Connection starring and directed by Y.K. Kim; co-directed by Woo-sang Park; (1986)

As an aside, I notice the Roxie programs a lot of films distributed by Drafthouse.  I wonder if that will continue if and when Drafthouse opens the New Mission Theater location (still scheduled for Q4-2012).

The first thing to know about Miami Connection is that it's one of those films that is so bad it is good; like Showgirls.  I doubt anyone thought much of it in 1986 but Drafthouse has discovered the film and is pushing it as an overlooked cult film.  In essence, Drafthouse seems to be trying to manufacture an audience looking for a cheesy cult film.  Unlike Showgirls which was immediately identified as horrible and excessive and immediately found an audience that worshipped horrible and excessive, Miami Connection was cheaply made and doesn't seem to have any delusions of grandeur.  Probably thought of as a joke by the handful of people who saw it upon its initial theater release in West Germany, it wasn't being hyped as the best worst film of the decade like Showgirls was.

Made by South Korean Tae Kwan Do Grandmaster Y.K. Kim, Miami Connection tells the story of Dragon Sound, a band in mid-1980s Miami.  The first thing that is goofy is that all the members of Dragon Sound (except the girl singer) live in the same house.  They all go to college together.  They all ride around in the same blue convertible together.  They all eat in the same Chinese restaurant together. You get it.  Kim plays Mark who is the only Asian in the group, about a foot shorter than everyone and looks about 15 years older than everyone else in the band.  Did I mention that they are all into Tae Kwan Do and Mark is a master martial artist?

Dragon Sound gets a gig at a nightclub which pisses off the the band which was dropped to make room for Dragon Sound.  They get into fight with them but Dragon Sound kicks their asses without breaking a sweat.  The band then gets in touch with the local biker gang but Dragon Sound kicks their asses too.  The best friend of the biker gang boss is a yakuza type who likes to hang out in biker bars.  He has an army of ninjas who ride around Florida on motorcycles with swords.  When the biker boss is killed, Mr. Yakuza sics his ninjas on Dragon Sound.  Although a few members of Dragon Sound get roughed up, Mark eventually kills Mr. Yakuza and everyone lives happily every after.

That synopsis skips over the bad acting, laughable casting, the unmemorable music, the cheap production values and the unrealistic fight scenes.  It's important to remember that Y.K. Kim went nearly bankrupt making this film so it's difficult to criticize it.  It is interesting to note the differences in the eras.

In the 1980s, Kim shot this on 35 mm film and spent considerable sums of his own money filming, processing and editing the film.  Today, a person could shoot a film like Miami Connection for a couple hundred dollars.  I'm coming to believe that is a bad thing.  Part of the charm is that Kim and his cast play it straight or to the best of their (admittedly limited) acting abilities.  Kim is emoting his ass off because his ass is on the line.  He sunk his entire life savings into this film so he is not going to mail it in.  Today, the actors would treat it as a goof because they probably spend more on a Friday night beer run than on the "film" and it would show in their it guerilla style, edit something together on your Macbook & throw it up on YouTube.

Usually, I'm not into "bad" films.  There are enough good films I haven't seen that I can't waste my time on bad films.  Knowing some of the backstory about the making of Miami Connection, I'm more willing to cut it some slack.  At some level, I think I might even like it.  The best thatI can I say publicly is that I don't regret seeing Miami Connection.  Of course, I used my Roxie Membership card for admission so there was no incremental cost to me.  I doubt I'll see the film a second time.

It wouldn't surprise me if a year or two from now, someone mentions Miami Connection, Y.K. Kim or Dragon Sound to me and I'll have a vague notion that I've heard of them somewhere.  It's very possible that I'll find this post, refresh my memory and smile...slightly.

I'd be doing future self a disfavor if I didn't post some Dragon Sound videos.

The lead singer sounds a little like Pat Benatar.

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