Miami Connection (1987) is one the most ubiquitous examples of how a bad movie can turn into a beloved cult classic. But really, how can a movie that languished in obscurity since the 1980s be so revered after all this time? Well, it mostly depends on the schlock zeitgeist, but we are going to look at the elements that make up this movie. We are going to examine how its flaws have become what people love most about it and how these flaws are what people look for in fun-bad movies.
A cult classic usually has an enticing and absurd premise, and Miami Connection (1987) definitely has one. Multicultural Taekwondo experts/college students who have formed a rock band called Dragon Sound fight against cocaine dealing bikers and motorcycle riding ninjas to clean up the streets of Orlando. And yes it is Orlando. The only connection to Miami is that the cocaine comes from there.
And of course this sounds ridiculous, but it draws people in the same way that internet videos of cats and of people doing stupid things do. Miami Connection (1987) can be watched alone, but part of the fun is watching newcomers react to the nonsense that plays out on screen. And this is how (again much like viral videos) movies become cult classics with fervent fan bases.
Now, it’s not just up to the premise. It also has to do with how well a film puts that into practice. And of course this is a different standard from regular movies. Rather than being how well executed everything should be, a movie like Miami Connection (1987) has to merely keep its audience’s energy up and their laughs constant.
It does this through poor line delivery, ridiculous editing choices, and over the top violence.
This movie has many lines that aren’t delivered well and many whole scenes that feel improvised with less than adept skill. One of my favorites involves the former band that played at the club where Dragon Sound now plays arguing with the club’s manager. They just walk up to one another and start shouting over each other. It’s bizarre. It’s forced. And here’s the real paradox, it’s genuine, genuine bad acting. This is one of the major things that can turn a bad movie into a beloved movie.
Bad acting can’t be faked. Well, it can. But it comes off as condescending to the viewer. With authentic bad acting the actor is playing the part straight. And this is where the comedy comes from. A scene that is supposed to tense, or brutal, or even romantic can become absurd in an instant with faulty line delivery.
Another thing that can help a movie like Miami Connection (1987) become a fun-bad movie is inconsistent tone. This usually comes about because of inexpert editing choices. One sequence that comes to mind is when Dragon Sound encounter the cocaine dealers in the parking-lot of their college. They can’t get to their car. The drug pusher Jeff’s thugs close-in around them. It seems like there’s about to be a big fight.
But then they just get in their car.
Suddenly, it cuts to them all smiling, laughing and sitting down in a local restaurant to eat Korean food. They eat, thank the owner and leave.
Then it cuts to them pulling up to a red light. Night has fallen. Cars come out of the darkness blocking them in. More thugs than before get out to the cars, brandishing blades, bats and chains. And now they actually fight.
We go from tense to calm to tense again. It seems as though they were trying to give the illusion of the progression of time so that the fight could be at night. It could also be that they didn’t have permits to film on that street so they have to wait until 3 a.m. But anyway. With the insertion of that small joyful dinner scene in between to unpleasant ones, it feels like our character have selective memory loss or don’t grasp how being human works. In a better film this sequence would make it worse, but in this film it makes it all the more interesting.
Lastly we have over the top violence. It has always been associated with schlock movies as a way to spice them up since they don’t usually have big stars attached. And Miami Connection (1987) is no exception. Arms are cut off, faces are mutilated and people are decapitated. But why does it stand out?
The overarching point of this movie is that only through the elimination of all violence can we achieve true peace. And yet our heroes are bathing in the blood of the motorcycle riding ninjas. They almost seem to enjoy it. So, it juxtaposes the message and therein comedy lies.
I also have to mention the soundtrack. It’s pure stupid brilliance. And it really does help raise this movie to that fun-bad status. So much work was put into songs like Friends, Against the Ninja and Tough Guys. All of them are cheesy, simple and excellent.
Miami Connection (1987) and movies like it become classics not because people suddenly realize they’re masterpieces, not at all. They’re still flawed. The acting is bad. The effects are cheap. And the plot doesn’t matter. What matters is that movies like this become moments of pleasure and laughter with friends. And that’s far more important.