Trailer

miami1[1]Somehow, some way, someone over at Drafthouse Films – the distributor – actually managed to squeeze a decent trailer out of the movie, comparable to the way scientists can make diamonds out of squeezing peanut butter together. Genuine kudos for that!
That being said, please be aware that the trailer is nothing like the movie, really. This promotion material makes it look like a half decent film while, if we’re being honest, it is anything but. But at least you’ll be able to see some of the footage and enjoy the corny soundtrack – all I’m saying is don’t let them trick you into believing this is what you’ll get. You won’t.

And yes, making diamonds out of peanut butter is a real thing and no, you can’t do it yourself by mashing it with a fork and then putting it in the microwave. Feel free to try though….

Introductory Thoughts

What do you get when you combine a plot involving a motorcycle ninja gang versus a much-too-old group of Taekwondo orphan rockers who are still in school? Well – something like a whipped cream pie with ketchup and anchovies on it. This Specialty of the Day is called Miami Connection – no, not “The Miami Connection” – just Miami Connection. Why? I don’t know. I don’t think they knew, either! It doesn’t even play in Miami, it’s all Orlando!

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Let’s establish some things first. This is a terrible movie, really – but it’s a gem in its genre of “Best of the Worst”. If you like bad movies, you need to see this movie. It’s just that simple. But it does lack just about all qualities a movie need to be entertaining – all actors, all of them, are terrible. The music is so corny that you’ll find it back in your toilet the same way it went in. The plot, isn’t – yes, that’s a sentence. And then some. A lot of some.

There are impressive feats of Taekwondo on display throughout the movie, they are well-choreographed by genuine martial artists, and in some weird way the movie rolls on smoothly. Then again, that’s not necessarily very hard to do if you don’t let things like a coherent plot and performance get in your way.

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There are some fairly violent scenes throughout, people lose parts so to speak, but it’s not exactly gut wrenching or even impressive. But I wouldn’t recommend this one for young viewers – especially given that decapitation is now a common pastime in certain parts of the world and videos of that go around the globe, too.

Plot

Okay, so what do we have here? Apparently Miami is being plagued by an evil gang of biker ninjas known under the mysterious, authentically oriental guise of “The Miami Ninjas”, who do in drugs, lame parties and general biker activities.
The film opens with these narco-ninjas – I thought of that myself, clever, right? – raiding a drug deal, they steal the blow and knock off everyone except the drug boss, who escapes… And to add insult to injury they entirely forget about taking all that sweet drug money with them! You wouldn’t think it but ninjas are really forgetful, they’re masters of stealth and combat skills but can’t memorize their own phone number! I could tell you stories….
Anyway, after being scolded by their leader Yashito (Si Y Jo), these bikers go out and party hard in Orlando. Because that’s what you do after losing out on millions.

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Once at the Orlando’s hottest club, Park Avenue, popular local “martial arts rock band” Dragon Sound – who, you guessed it, also just happen to be Taekwondo black belts – is performing on stage with the sister of the ninja-bikers’ local man – Jeff (William Ergle).
The Miami Ninjas give him a heads up that she, Jane (Kathy Collier), seems romantically involved with band member John (Vincent Hirsch), and given Jeff’s semi-incestuous obsession with his younger sibling, this doesn’t go over too well.

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The following day Jeff, along with a fleet of inebriated, intellectually challenged minions, confront and assault John at the University of Central Florida in hopes of intimidating him into leaving his sister Jane alone. But John’s pals, the rest of the band under leadership of Taekwondo master Mark (Y.K. Kim), are quick to jump in and tell Jeff that he doesn’t scare them. “Not-ah at all. Good-ah bye!”

From thereon the movie takes off with Jeff trying to increasingly up the pressure on John and the band, if not just for his sister then for their turf. Indeed, that sounds confusing, but apparently playing ’80s soft rock in a band over at some shady club in Orlando automatically means you own turf. It all spirals out of control as Mark, John and the others begin fighting back. Eventually body parts are flying about with an ultimate showdown so intense you will have forgotten most of it as soon as the movie is over.

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I really want to stress the amazing, deeply emotional and intense subplot of band member Jim (Maurice Smith) trying to find his long-lost father. After it all comes together you are sure to have an emotional boner. Which is the non-creepy kind girls can have, too. I don’t even know.

Acting

I’m not sure whether to be impressed or really upset with the performances throughout the film. It may be fair to note that the movie was written and produced by a successful Taekwondo grandmaster, Y.K. Kim, who also happens to play a lead role as Mark. Kim made the whole movie on a budget of about a million dollars that he scraped together from his successful business as, you guessed it, owner of Taekwondo dojos. He recruited all his leads for the movie from within the ranks of his dojos, which apparently numbered several thousand people, and managed to cut costs and have actors who actually know how to fight. That part is the pro. The con is that they really can’t act.

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Another strange element is that Y.K. Kim is already ‘of age’ in the movie, like – the dude was in his forties when playing this particular role and it shows. Now, I obviously have no problem with people’s age in general, but the role he is playing – that of friend, room mate, Taekwondo-instructor, band member, orphan and fellow college student – seems a bit odd at his age. He’s the odd one out, so to speak. It could have worked had he played a more fatherly role or more background info was given on their interpersonal relations, but none of that happens. So basically it’s an old dude running around with and acting like people who are early to mid-twenties. Ultimately though it’s more humorous than anything else.
Also, Kim’s accent is something in and of itself – it’s almost sad he didn’t have a movie career after this production, he would’ve become a legend if just for that. You thought Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan had a strong accent? Wait till you hear Grandmaster Kim!

It’s also rare for a movie to have stunt men play more convincing roles than any of the leads. In fact, the best acting throughout the whole movie pretty much happens in the opening scene, which is really only a gun and martial arts battle. But the stuntmen at least do their job as legitimate professionals tend to do. Everyone else in the movie? Not so much! Though bad guy Yashito gives a semi-reasonable performance.

Sound(track) & Special FX

Oh! Now here’s a gem! The soundtrack of the movie is so corny it’s wonderful! Especially the smash hits performed by “Dragon Sound” will bring you many eargasms. There’s “Catch the Ninja” performed by Kathy Collier (Jane) and “Friends” by Angelo Janotti (Tom) – with the latter being my personal favorite. As you probably guessed, the actors do in fact perform the songs themselves and admittedly do so really well – they actually were musicians.
The songs are rich with incredible lyrics, such as the chorus of “Friends”: “Friends through eternity! Loyalty! Honesty! We’ll stay together, through thick or thin!” Eat your heart out, Freddie Mercury!

The best part is that it’s hilariously obvious during the musical performance that only Angelo Janotti and Kathy Collier know how to hold an instrument. Y.K. Kim, for one, has no clue on how to even hold a guitar and couldn’t even hold a candle to six-year-old me on a tennis racket. Admittedly Y.K. Kim does a neat trick in which he grabs noses between his toes and spins the unlucky victim around. In fact, the trick is so cool they had to show you twice throughout the movie. You know, in case you missed it the first time. I just really hope he washed between his toes.

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The Special FX aren’t exactly great, but they’re not even the worst I’ve seen. The decapitation scene is pretty brutal and some of the sword cuts are fairly convincing, but other than that there isn’t much to show for it. Added bonus are the old-school “Kung Fu” sound effects made during fights – they honor Bruce Lee.

Art-Direction

There isn’t an awful lot of it, to be fair. It’s all pretty minimal – there aren’t an awful lot of inspiring locations or costumes. But it looks fairly realistic with exception of the club performance in which, for no apparent reason, the band is wearing Taekwondo outfits on stage. I guess it’s a gimmick, but it doesn’t look very good. Most of the other locations are, for whatever reason, often on or around parking lots. Probably because it cost less?

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Cult Rating

8/10 – This is another one of those movies that scores incredibly uneven when it comes to the ratings. Miami Connection brings us everything we crave and simultaneously despise in B-movies. The terrible acting, the ridiculous plot, the music – everything is what B-movies are all about. If you are in need of seeing one of the cheapest, most awful movies ever made that is still oddly entertaining, look no further. This creative outburst of bikers, ninjas, rock bands and orphans is what you have been looking for all these years.

Film Rating

2/10 – I warned you! There’s nothing in the movie that is… professional? Okay, besides the fighting choreography, there is nothing. It’s cheaply produced and not in a clever way. Kim, understandably, tried to limit the budget as much as possible given he was paying from his own pocket, but it does show. The actors have no clue what they’re doing, the plot is full of holes, and in the end you’re not even entirely sure what the conclusion is other than that “It’s all over now.”

There’s nothing about the movie we will carry with us that is complimentary to cinema – not the story, the acting or the soundtrack. But, again, it doesn’t have to be. It’s a B-movie and you knew what you were getting into.

Final Verdict

So, should you watch this movie? Are you a B-movie fan? If so, yes. Otherwise, no. This is only entertaining to those of us who “get” cult-movies, who understand that they are a marker of the time and not pure, golden entertainment. They’re crummy, but they give you a look into that era. And Miami Connection does just that. From the corny soundtrack, Angelo Janotti’s terrifying haircut, the martial arts fights, to the legendary (awful) performances – it’s got all of that wrapped into a blanket of cheap entertainment made by people who largely had no clue. Kind of like the old VHS tapes you, or your dad, had in college – they’re slightly beer stained and a little damaged. But there’s a mystery surrounding them, or you just want to relive those times again.

In the end the movie is strangely endearing and kind-hearted, infectiously enthusiastic, childishly naïve and so perfectly ’80s. You can tell that the people who worked on this movie all really wanted to do this. And they wanted to do it right. So they put everything in it that they thought was going to make the movie great. Except they didn’t do a very good job at that.
Imagine if there were a fireworks boat, as in an actual boat on the water from which we will color the sky, right? Now, everyone starts to just load as much fireworks onto the boat as they all want. Soon the boat can barely stay afloat, all the fireworks are going off at the same time, the vessel catches fire, but everyone is just so happy with what they’ve done that even you go: “Meh. Who cares! Fireworks!” This is the effect Miami Connection has. It’s a total mess of a fireworks show, it’s just loud bangs and bright lights, but we all came here to party and dammit, we will!

To round this up – I just want to share one last thing with you. The movie ends with one of the most inspiring sayings you will ever come across in film – “Only through the elimination of violence can we achieve world peace”. This coming, mind you, after ninety minutes of violence. Take from that what you want.

How to Watch & After Thoughts

Well, I’d advise you to snort some blow, or in the very least blow some snort, but since that’s not necessarily a legal thing to do, I’d advise beer. And a lot of it, too. You can’t really go wrong with beer anyway, but this movie definitely requires at least some degree of alcoholic influence to reach its maximum potential. Other things that you may require are a bucket of chicken wings, or – perhaps even better – Oriental take-out! I mean, why not? You’re watching a movie about a fantastic Oriental martial art, I mean that, and the guys in the movie are also seen eating Korean food several times – so why not have some yourself? I might add though that Korean food is spicy. Like spicy-spicy. Like Mexican-spicy doesn’t have shit on Korean-spicy….

Is this a “good” cult movie? No. But it’s worthy to be seen because as cult movie fans we strive not only to see the best but also the worst. Miami Connection is fantastically terrible. And as a cult-fan that makes you happy. Nobody understands, we do.
Will you carry anything with you from this movie? Probably not – besides the songs that are still playing in my head days later. Which may or may not be an indication of brain trauma.
Either way – watch this for the obligatory slow-mo fight scenes, the heavy synths, the nonsensicality of it all. Miami Connection has it and it wants to be seen, by you.

Post Scriptum

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There is in fact an alternate ending available to those interested – the movie as we see it today has a feel good ending, but the original didn’t quite have that! In fact it was a downright bummer and I have no idea what they were thinking. But given that the director (Woo-sang Park) was also Asian, it’s save to believe that he directed from his Asian-film experience in which the death of main characters is not uncommon or seen as negative. However, in Hollywood that’s quite different. We want to leave the cinema with a smile and a tear. And boy, do we ever!

If you’re interested in seeing the original “dark” ending – you can watch it here:

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