We’re on Top Cause We Play to Win!
Miami Connection is not by any stretch of the imagination a well-made movie. I would go so far as to say that it is one of the most inept movies I’ve ever come across from a plot standpoint. It is a 1980’s action movie forgotten for two decades by virtually anyone who saw the film upon initial release (it screened in eight theaters in the Orlando area and West Germany so that’s not a high number really). The director/star of the film, Y.K. Kim, was a Taekwondo instructor that could barely speak English, pumped his life savings into the movie and went bankrupt. The actor’s in the film never saw a dime from it. And yet with all of these things in mind it is one of the best movies I’ve come across in the last ten years. Allow me to explain.
Every movie fan is always complaining about there not being enough “good” films out there. But what constitutes a good movie? Is it a thrilling plot? Is it spectacle? Is it the feeling it gives you? This is probably different for everyone but for me it’s the entertainment value and the heart behind the movie above anything else. To better explain my reasoning, I’ll give an example of a supposedly great film that I loathe.
Antichrist by Lars Von Trier is, according to most critics and a few hipster doofuses that I know, a deep, meaningful horror film about desperation and loss. I am more inclined to view it as an excuse to show x-rated sex and graphic violence by wrapping it up in the auspices of art. Antichrist is crap and if someone like Michael Bay had made it, the film would be viewed as such but since it was crafted by Von Trier (he made Dogville!), it gets a pass. You can put a pink dress on a turd but at the end of the day, it’s just a turd with a pink dress. You can put the label of “art” on Antichrist but at the end of the day it’s just really badly done exploitation porn that’s okay for hipsters to faun over. But thankfully for every Antichrist, there is a Miami Connection.
Friends for Eternity!
Miami Connection is one of the most joyfully unpretentious movies I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing. The plot can be summed up as such; an ass-kicking Taekwondo loving rock and roll band named Dragon Sound, who are also college students by day, are forced to take down a drug dealing gang of motorcycle-riding ninjas while also looking for their keyboard player’s long lost father. If that plot doesn’t at least make you somewhat interested in this movie then you and I shouldn’t be friends. Go on, get out of here.
The film’s director Richard Park had seen Y.K. Kim on a talk show in the mid 1980’s. Park was looking to get in on the martial arts boom of the 1980’s and asked Kim if he would be interested in writing and starring in a movie. Kim agreed to make and star in the film because he wanted to spotlight actual Taekwondo and not computer generated trickery. The problem with this was that Kim had no film experience. The film was padded out with friends of Kim’s and local actors/musicians, most of whom were just as clueless about filmmaking as Kim. But sometimes the planets align and lightning strikes.
Miami Connection exists in a weird kind of alternant movie universe. A universe where musicals, action movies, family dramas, and gorefests all intermingle to form a strange kind of magic that is hard to pinpoint. It is a failure of grand proportions from a technical stand-point, but it has such a strange heart. There is something so engaging in its missing pieces that it becomes a success despite itself.
Case in point; in the middle of the film the main antagonist Yashito (played by Siyung Jo) goes to a bar and hangs out with some other bikers. Now, I’m pretty sure there was a bike rally going on and the filmmakers decided to shoot some footage so they wouldn’t have to pay extras (you can be the judge of this theory for yourself). The scene seems out of place and Jo seems so uncomfortable throughout that there is no way this was scripted and there are also some topless biker women present which goes further to add to the confusion and randomness of the scene. In any other film this scene might be boring but in Miami Connection it actually adds to the otherworldliness of the movie.
My favorite scene in the whole movie however, is fairly early on. Dragon Sound has just usurped the local craprock band (by offering a new dimension in rock and roll) at an Orlando area rock club called Park Avenue and also pissed off one of the local drug thugs. The craprock band’s “manager” and several other tough guys come in to deal with the club owner. After what I can only describe as one of the loudest and infuriated line readings between two individuals you will ever hear and see, the club owner proceeds to kick the crap out of everyone in the place. You see, in Miami Connection EVERYONE knows martial arts.
Against the Ninja!
Miami Connection was virtually forgotten about after it was released. It was only through happenstance that the film got into the right people’s hands and was given a proper release in 2012 by Drafthouse Films, twenty-five years after its initial run. It is available on all home video formats and for streaming on Netflix.
I originally watched Miami connection because I heard that it was a “so bad it’s good” type of movie. It is that for sure, but it’s also a movie with a lot of heart, catchy songs and some of the weirdest performances you are likely to see anywhere. It really is a feel-good movie (whether that is intentional is up for debate) and if you haven’t seen it then you need to search it out. I would recommend getting the Blu-Ray or DVD because of the special features chronicling the making of the film and its slow climb back into the public consciousness.
If you’re looking for high drama and lofty ideas then you might want to look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a well-told story that goes from point a to b, this might not be your bag baby. However, if you’re looking for a movie where a motorcycle riding, drug-dealing ninja chops a guy’s head off in one strike, then this just might be your kind of deal hepcats. So pull up a chair, grab your gi and prepare to go against the ninja. You might just make some friends for eternity