MIAMI CONNECTION blu-ray review


USA Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 1.85:1

English Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH






There have been films that have been critically bashed when initially released in theaters – sometimes they need to age over time to be appreciated and even be considered masterpieces. Historically, a negative reviewed B-movie or box office failure can evolve into a respectable art-house film over time. There have been films that changed the typical pattern of what audiences expect to see when they come to the theater such as with the French New Wave style that popped up in the 1960s. They too have been labeled as art-house films. Pretentious films always have the advantage of getting graded as art-house much quicker than a B-movie that eventually gets respect. Why should a film with beautiful cinematography, pretty actors, meaningless dialogue (or even lack of dialogue), and an unconventional storyline that does not follow a traditional three-act setup get more respect than a B-movie that evolves into an art-house film over time? For example, art-house film fans love directors such as Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, and Wong Kar Wai. Their films are obviously respected and loved in the art-house world. But they are an acquired taste – try watching Pierrot le Fou, Last Year at Marienbad, and In the Mood for Love and you’ll know that they are the prototype films to be appreciated by art-house film lovers due to them being pretentious, pretty looking with polished cinematography, and/or many people just naturally connecting to these films. I really wish I could connect to these New Wave films but I can’t. I’ve tried to force myself to watch them over the years and at different ages, but I still can’t get into them and can’t connect with them to really see how special they are to others. In the opposite spectrum, I connect more to the critically-bashed B-movie that evolves into a respectable art-house film over time. These films may get their own special label such as “pulp, exploitation, cult, or camp” which still is basically another way of saying “these are special films but they are still inferior to traditional art-house films respected by most famous critics.” A pretentious art-house film loved by many should have equal respect as a campy B-movie that ages well, turns into an admirable film, and is also loved by many. Call it what you want, Y.K. Kim’s Miami Connection is actually a work of art.

After reading reviews online before watching Miami Connection, there seems to be general consensus on the internet that you can just automatically accept it as bad film or you can choose to watch it as a “so-bad-it’s-good” film – the type you watch in the theater or at home with a bunch of friends and laugh at it because everyone else is laughing – the “contagious laughter” factor. I expected Miami Connection to fall into the “so-bad-it’s-good” category, but actually I ended up watching this film quite seriously even as it had a bunch of those unintentional laugh-out-loud moments. I was mainly mesmerized by what a unique 1980s film this is, which is why I consider Y.K. Kim’s creation a very special art-house film.

If you have read up about this film, you should expect to see a wacky film about an ass-kicking rock band that beats up drug-running ninjas and gangs on the streets of Orlando, Florida. The negative characteristics in Miami Connection, such as the bad acting, cheesy dialogue, funny line delivery, and hilarious bloody action, all work just fine because the dedication that all the actors put into this film seems totally genuine. While the acting may seem amateurish at first, I quickly forgot about this negative trait once you see how all the actors have chemistry with each other. The big laughs in the movie mainly come from the token black actor who has the honor of delivering most of the unintentional funny lines.

For a film that had mainly non-actors and a crew that never wrote or directed a film before, I was surprised to think about directors Walter Hill, John Carpenter, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Robert Altman as I watched Miami Connection. Plenty of famous directors have made cult-type films as their first movies. For a person who never filmed anything before, Y.K. Kim’s direction is actually quite good. All of his shots are visually pleasing and the editing was fine too. There are some funny slo-mo shots and awkward cuts, but his direction was much more professional than I expected. The martial arts scenes are generally choreographed very nicely too especially since 1980s Hollywood is infamous for cheesy martial arts scenes. Fight scenes are exciting and usually funny due to the hilarious reactions of the non-actor goons who get their butts kicked, as well as Y.K. Kim doing a funny-as-hell impersonation of Bruce Lee during his fight scenes. How unfortunate that Kim did not make any more movies since Miami Connection is his only film.

The main attraction of Miami Connection is its generous portion of pure 1980s magic. We have actors that look 40 years old playing kids, an absolutely awesome soundtrack with catchy tunes, hairy gang members, ninjas, cheesy action, memorable dialogue, breasts, and so much more! The 1980s was a bizarre time period and has been a challenging era to copy in contemporary movies such as The Wedding Singer or American Psycho. Filmmakers try but cannot match that dreamlike weirdness of the 1980s, which is why many 1980s films are now aging well.

The Region A Blu-ray from Drafthouse/Image is quite impressive. Restored to 1080p 1.85:1, the video quality looks very good with some scratches in the beginning and grainy night scenes. Still, the video is very pleasing with crisp detail in most scenes. This Blu-ray is definitely HD-quality! I’m sure most fans used to watching the VHS will be extremely happy once they see this Blu-ray. Audio is decent. Music rocks and dialogue is clear but make sure to ignore the DTS-HD 2.0 listing on the back cover because the only audio mix offered on this Blu-ray is Dolby Digital 2.0. I would have loved to hear this movie in DTS-HD 5.1 with the plentiful action and memorable music, but the DD 2.0 is perfectly fine. After all, Drafthouse got lucky with finding a decent print to restore onto Blu-ray. English SDH subtitles are an option – especially if you want to remember the great songs in this film. Drafthouse has also provided an extremely generous amount of extras: a booklet about the film (similar to what Criterion does), an audio commentary with the director and writer, deleted scenes, making of, a reunion concert with the band, a featurette on Y.K. Kim, movie trailers (for Miami Connection and other Drafthouse film releases) and an extremely funny 30-minute infomercial. Also offered is a reversible cover as pictured to the right, but I’m perfectly happy with the regular beautiful-looking cover art by artist François Simard.

Art-house film or cult film, Miami Connection is totally entertaining and transports the viewer into the magical and dreamlike world of the 1980s. It’s too bad this film didn’t get turned into a cartoon series. The Blu-ray is a definite blind buy if you are curious to see a truly unique action film from the 1980s!

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