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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 04.02.13] action crime

I've come to realise that the line between "so bad its good" and just plain bad, is personal, a line that we come to discover on our own after years of trial and error. I finally came to grips with this truth a few years ago when I saw Tommy Wiseau's The Room. It was a packed house and the crowd was energetic and interactive, exactly the kind of audience that makes such dreck bearable, but even with the audience, I couldn't find any enjoyment in the movie; I just wanted out as soon as humanly possible. When news emerged that Drafthouse Films was releasing a little seen 1980s flick titled Miami Connection and that the "lost gem" was gaining popularity as a movie so bad it's good, I feared another Room-like experience. Thankfully, that isn't the case. Not at all.

The story behind Miami Connection isn't a new one. Y.K. Kim, the movie's co-star, writer, producer and co-director was discovered by a director while Kim was shelling a book about taekwondo. Director Richard Park later met with Kim and pitched him the idea of a movie. Kim saw it as his big break opportunity, his chance to make a really great action movie and so he did what anyone with a dream and a possible way into the system would do: he put it all on the line using up his savings, mortgaging his school and borrowing heavily to finance his dream project and oh, what a project.

Kim co-stars as a member of synth rock band Dragon Sound. All of the members look too old to be UCF students but we're supposed to buy that they're all in college and financing school by performing their sweet sounds. Oh yes, and every member of the band is a martial arts expert; that's importnat. Or at least it seems important...

Dragon Sound find themselves on the good side of the fight against "stupid cocaine" smuggling bicycle gangs and ninjas when one of the group members falls for the sister of a local gang leader. There's also a storyline about the band being targeted because the previous band who had the regular gig at Club Park Avenue have taken out a hit on Dragon Sound but that story, along with so many other tidbits of Miami Connection, doesn't really go anywhere.

It's even more ridiculous than it sounds. Quite honestly, the entire thing is a jumbled mess of scenes that go no where, others that are included to introduce some new piece of information that is never used and still more that are there simply for the sake of being there. Case in point: the two band performances at the beginning of the movie. For a minute it feels like a moment taken out of The Lost Boys (sax man anyone?) with the band rockin' out onstage while adoring fans party on in the dance floor. It's hilariously goofy but the songs are so damned catchy that damned it! I was humming along before each song came to an end. Point of the scenes? There isn't one but that doesn't make them any less entertaining.

There are fight sequences for the sake of fight sequences and though some confrontations are as goofy as the musical performances, some are genuinely fantastic. When Kim gets into the action he really gives it his all and it comes through in the sequences that sometimes feel like they're pulled from a far better movie. We would expect nothing less from a 9th degree black belt and Kim doesn't disappoint, delivering on the promise of effects free action.

It's over the top and goofy and kind of dumb but that's part of what makes Miami Connection so entertaining. Kim set out to make a serious action movie but his effort, and the help of a few uncontrollable events, has resulted in a movie that transcends the bad and enters the realm of joyous entertainment. It's endearing and catchy and fun and the kind of thing you want to watch with friends, create drinking games to and have parties themed after. It may not be the best movie ever but it's definitely the best 80s movie that you've never seen and one that everyone can enjoy.

And if "Friends" doesn't get your foot a-tapping, you should probably get your ears checked.

Miami Connection begins a limited engagement at Vancouver's Pacific Cinematheque on April 5th.

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