As I was sitting in Theater Four at the famous TIFF Bell Lightbox, the lights dimmed. Judging by the reactions I later heard, I am fairly certain that no one sitting around me knew exactly what to expect when the projector started up. I know for a fact that my companions and I had not even considered that The Miami Connection was going to be the film that it was.
How could you possibly believe a film with the IMDB description, “A martial arts rock band goes up against a band of motorcycle ninjas who have tightened their grip on Florida’s narcotics trade,” could be anything but the pinnacle of horribleness? You memorized The Miami Connection’s IMDB synopsis? Wow, my hat is off to you, fine reader! Well, to answer this question, I expected something along the same vein as Robert Rodriguez’s segment of Grindhouse, but with ninja rock stars. Rock ninjas. Was I right? Nope, not even a little.
The Miami Connection, like many ‘80s B-movies, is horrible. Its writing, its acting, its editing, its song selection, its direction… all horrible. There is a moment in which a character, John (Vincent Hirsch), kills a man and then does an impression of Nicolas Cage doing an impression of Jackie Chan screaming for a solid seven seconds. Once one sees a film where a moment like that is even remotely possible, they will know all the possibilities of cinema.
The editing seems as if it was done at 2 a.m. while the editor was off of his/her anti-psychotics and overdosing on a lethal mix of cocaine, crystal meth, and heroine. At the most inexplicable of times, the footage crawls into slow motion, such as in this clip near the end of the film. This features four of the five main characters half naked for some reason. Jim (Maurice Smith), the one in focus, has not zipped his pants up at all, and has no shirt on. In personal experience, I go check my mail in the same fashion, but I find it odd that others do as well, judging by the many restraining orders I find in my mail once I reach the box. The music chosen throughout is ridiculous, the ominous tones heard when Jim goes to the mailbox is so strange! The songs that the group’s band plays are the type that would be played on Nickelodeon in between shows. That is not an exaggeration. I think some villain even says something like that at some point.
Having said all of that, the true, true horribleness that I witnessed was sincere. It was pure of heart. It spoke out, not completely unlike how an angelic harp would sound. It was so horrible, it was almost sweet. It would take a soul much harder than mine to dislike it. In fact, I loved it much more than I thought possible for a film about rock ninjas.
A few days ago I mentioned having seen this to a friend. The friend asked me what it was about, to which I replied: “It is Tommy Wiseau’s masterpiece The Room if The Room was about biker ninja rock stars pumped with adrenaline.” If you have seen The Room, you may understand this praise. It has all of the makings of a cult masterpiece, from its terrible sound, to its poor direction, to literally everything inside it. Those who see it on the midnight circuit are going to eat it up like no other.
The film was released in eight theaters back in 1988 where it, for some unknown reason, received reviews that were less than positive. The Orlando Sentinel published a review for it (that can be read at this link) in which critic Jay Boyar had trouble coming up with a single nice thing to say about The Miami Connection. How this is possible is unknown to me. Yes, every single aspect of it is horrible, but that, in itself, makes it beautiful beyond belief.
So, is this another situation where a film is so bad it is perceived as being good? Yes and no. Yes, it is good through its horribleness, like I mentioned above, but I am not sure it is at all bad. That may sound like a contradiction, but I do not believe that when something is good, it can also be bad. Good is just good. I mentioned The Room earlier, which is similar to The Miami Connection in this aspect. To not enjoy a single shuriken-throwing, sword-stabbing, ninja-jumping moment is neigh impossible. Although it may not be the film that director Richard Park (aka Park Woo-sang) intended to make, which was one with ‘exciting martial arts action’ (Source), it nevertheless is a masterpiece, and an experience worth having.