We’ll even up the score! Against the ninja!
And how do you even up the score with ninjas intent on senseless killing? With senseless killing! Welcome to the world of wonder that is Miami Connection.
Life is good for members of the hottest new band in Miami, Dragon Sound. They’re packing the local nightclub circuit with feverish fans, doing well in college, and enjoying robust checking account balances of between $50 and $200. But this high living comes at a price: the house band they bumped is determined to exact violent revenge. Little do these guys know, the Tae Kwan-Do thematic elements Dragon Sound uses in their production are not merely for show. These guys are legit pugilists.
Beaten and defeated, the bad guys ask for help from a local coke-dealing gang, the leader of whom is the brother to the girlfriend of Dragon Sound’s lead guitarist. Already upset by this relationship (for reasons never made clear), the gang leader eagerly accepts this offer, despite being saddled with 20 worthless thugs who can’t even bring down the keyboardist of a part-time hair metal band. More fighting, more bellyaching, and eventually a fearsome gang of motorcycle-riding ninjas enter the fray. That’s when Dragon Sound will show they are truly worthy of their bad-ass name.
Welcome to Miami Connection! Welcome to the Mount Olympus of a Low-Budget B-Movie Excellence. Actually, I meant Mount Olympus of a Low-Budget B-Movie “Excellence.” Can’t forget those sarcastic quotes. Miami Connection is now a god, a god of inadvertent hilarity, awash in the brilliance of its own self-obliviousness.
Determined to make himself a movie and maybe bite off a piece of that sweet 1980s martial arts cinema cheddar, Tae Kwan-Do savant and apparent pacifist YK Kim marshaled his limited resources, tracked down a camera, and ended up with this, a film that seeks to intermingle hard-boiled mortal combat and uninterrupted full songs about being friends forever. The good news, kids? We’re all better for it!
Miami Connection is nothing short of glorious, a legendary work of American pop culture that needs to be carved into stone façade along with the likes of Gymkata, Voyage of the Rock Aliens, and Psycho Kickboxer. I normally recoil at the ballyhooed releases that proclaim the corniness of their feature, as I’m often disappointed by films which tend to be too self-aware. There is no fun in a willfully cheeky B-movie. For hilarity to truly ensue, everyone on board has to be giving it all they’ve got in a straight-forward effort.
Not Miami Connection. It’s all deadly serious. From the harsh examination of the consequences of ninjas entering the cocaine trade, to Dragon Sound’s very serious plan to hold concerts in the country of each band member’s origin to spread world peace, this film does not have a wistful bone in its body. In fact, the original ending, which was re-shot due to studio demands using the worst stunt-man swap-out ever devised, ends on a hugely dour note.
But this is why its failure is so utterly spectacular. Watching the painful acting (highlighted by a two-minute scene where a band member blubbers about his estranged father, while YK Kim emotes in the background like he’s being burned by a branding iron) combined with its nonsense story, excruciating fight choreography, and smattering of shocking gore is true bliss.
In fact, I’m going to wrap up this review right now. I don’t want to give away anything more. Just take this to heart: if you are like me and love unintentionally hilarious low-budget movies, you need to not only watch Miami Connection but add it to your permanent collection as soon as humanly possible. I don’t offer many iron-clad guarantees, but you can nail this one down as gospel truth. This movie rules.
Good on Drafthouse Films for treating this gem with the honor it deserves. You’re not going to get a sterling transfer, thanks to its age and what I’m sure were dodgy-at-best source materials, but the 1.85:1/1080p transfer has its moments — both good and bad. Sound comes via a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix; again, nothing that’s reference quality, but adequate enough to crank those dope Dragon Sound tunes.
It’s within the bonus features this Blu-ray release shines: Commentary from YK Kim and writer/star Joseph Diamand; a hefty, retrospective documentary; a terrific set of deleted scenes, including the long-lost “how the band installed their huge mailbox” sequence; footage from the Dragon Sound reunion concert at Fantastic Fest 2012; and a pair of YK Kim promo spots (he’s now a motivational speaker by trade).