Jason Recommends: Miami Connection
Longtime Readers™ will know that it’s rare for me to take to these pages these days just to recommend something to you. But as a lover of bad movies, this is too good to not share. So allow me to introduce you to a little gem called Miami Connection.
Written, produced and co-directed in 1987 by its star, Korean-born Central Florida taekwondo master Y.K. Kim, Miami Connection debuted locally the next year and promptly bombed so hard it nearly drove Kim into bankruptcy. Its failure to find even a hometown audience doomed any chances of it getting a national release, and it quietly sank into obscurity for twenty-five years until it was rediscovered by the people at the legendary Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas. Immediately recognizing its barely comprehensible genius, they funded an HD restoration and brought the film to a national re-release last year. I picked up on it a few months later through an episode of Red Letter Media’s hilarious web series, Best of the Worst. (If you’re a fan of cinematic cheese, Best of the Worst is must-see viewing.)
So what is so great about Miami Connection? Let’s start with the basic premise. Mark (Y.K. Kim) is the leader of a group of taekwondo-fighting orphans who live together, attend the University of Central Florida together, and apparently do everything together, since we really never see any of them away from the group. This includes a lot of hanging around their group house shirtless, which is another thing they apparently frequently do together.
(Before the UCF affiliation prompts you to ask: yes, here we have a movie called Miami Connection that, except for one scene at the beginning, takes place entirely in Orlando. After that opening scene Miami is never mentioned again. I guess they just decided that Orlando Connection wasn’t as compelling a title.)
While they are students by day, they take on another identity by night: a synth-rock band called “Dragon Sound,” whose songs are apparently the hit of the Central Florida club scene, despite most of them being completely tuneless.
See, Dragon Sound isn’t just a band; they are a band with A Message. And that message is that taekwondo is awesome and ninjas are not. I’m old enough to remember the big pro-ninja pop wave of 1986, so I can only assume their audiences found their contrarian position refreshing.
Consider one of Dragon Sound’s big numbers, creatively titled “Against the Ninja“:
… the chorus of which is, and I quote:
Tae kwon, tae kwon!
Tae kwon, tae kwon!
Tae kwon, tae kwon!
In case that pro-taekwondo message is too subtle, they also periodically do air kicks on stage.
Anyway, one of the members of Dragon Sound starts a wan romance with a woman whose brother is somehow affiliated with the drug business, and this leads to Dragon Sound having to use their taekwondo skills to fight their way through waves of bikers, ninjas, and biker ninjas between classes. Surprisingly, despite being associated with the blood-drenched Florida drug scene of the 1980s, none of these foes seems to own a gun. That’s probably for the best, plot-wise, as the presence of guns would make it slightly more difficult for Dragon Sound to repeatedly kick them.
(Editor’s note: near the end, we do actually see a few bad guys with guns. To a man, these all begin their fights with Dragon Sound by having their guns kicked out of their hands. Letting someone get close enough to kick you seems like a fundamental misunderstanding of the value of a firearm, but it’s possible that biker ninja doctrinal thought in the 1980s had other ideas.)
The movie ends with a final assault by biker ninjas on Our Heroes. Unlike their previous fights, in this one the ninjas actually manage to slash a couple of Dragon Sounders with their ninja swords. This leads to Our Heroes, who have spent the entire movie preaching about how taekwondo is not really about kicking people but about peace and understanding, dropping the taekwondo altogether and using the ninjas’ own swords to straight-up murder like a thousand ninjas. This ends cocaine forever.
And then, right after we’ve seen Our Heroes howling triumphantly while soaked in the blood of men they have just stabbed to death, we get a final title card:
Only Through The Elimination of Violence Can We Achieve World Peace
The whole project is just baffling from beginning to end. Kim, playing the main character, is undaunted in his portrayal by the fact that he can’t really speak English. (He looks like he’s reading his lines phonetically, except in a few places where they were obviously dubbed in later.) The film never bothers to give the other members of Dragon Sound personalities, except for one, whose sub-plot is so ineptly handled it beggars belief. After the initial scene in Miami, we never see drugs or drug dealing again. But we do see lots of poorly choreographed fights where bad guys line up one by one to take their turn getting kicked by Dragon Sound. It gets so obvious that you start to think they should install one of those deli machines that gives out numbers.
In other words, it’s amazing.
So take my recommendation and add Miami Connection to your viewing list. It’s available on Blu-Ray, DVD and HD digital download from Drafthouse Films, and for online streaming via Netflix Instant.