Miami Connection (1987)
REWIND hates “so bad it’s good.” If you like a thing, own it. Life’s too short to hide your own taste from yourself. So how, then, can one know whether a given movie has transcended the duality of good and bad, has become the kind of movie people attend midnight showings of and make their own t-shirts for? There’s a certain amount of casuistry involved — intention matters, and a single-minded devotion to breaking boundaries. But here’s another good indicator: CNN writes an article about it.
To the canon of Manos, Plan 9, The Room, Birdemic and Fateful Findings, the minds at Drafthouse Films have added Miami Connection, first released in 1987 and nearly lost until 2012. And like a lot of those other quality-transcendent motion pictures, Miami Connection is almost entirely the product of a single mind: Y. K. Kim, the co-director, co-writer, producer, casting director, and star. Kim was the taekwondo impresario of Orlando, creating a franchise of popular schools that thrust him into an extremely localized sort of success and celebrity. Speaking of which, Miami Connection — the story of a band (literally, like a prog-rock bar band) of Penzancian orphans who are also full-time taekwondo students and roommates, setting out to manifest friendship and world peace by ending violence through face-kicking drug-dealing biker ninjas — is set entirely in Orlando. That kind of fundamental denial of consensus reality, like “when is it okay to put the name Miami in the title of your movie,” is critical to the appeal of Miami Connection. Kim believed in this movie. He saw it as his opportunity to become a taekwondo version of Chuck Norris or Bruce Lee. He screened it at the Cannes Film Festival. Then over 100 studios and distributors turned it down and he lost $1 million; Kim says “every single person” called the movie trash.
But it’s not trash. It’s gonzo fun, sincere and heartfelt and full of bonkers songs and hilarious action. Is it conventionally successful as a movie? It is not. But who cares about convention (or dialogue, or characterization, or cohesive plotting)? It invents and inhabits a fantasy world as totally divorced from our own as any Saturday morning cartoon. Join REWIND for the quintessential outsider-art ’80s action experience: Miami Connection.