Sunday
Jan132013

How Do You Review Perfection? MIAMI CONNECTION (1987) Review

There are moments when I look back at all the garbage I’ve ever sought out and watched and just think, “Why? Why do I continually do this to myself? These movies are rarely any good.” Yeah, it can get pretty depressing at times, but I carry on, searching for lost gems in a bottomless pile of crap. But it’s films like Miami Connection that make it all worth it.

MIAMI CONNECTION (1987) Review

A ruthless gang of drug-dealing, motorcycle-riding ninjas has just acquired a large supply of cocaine and plan on moving it from Miami into Orlando. However, one thing stands in their way: Dragon Sound, the hottest new band in Florida. Led by Mark (Y.K. Kim), the band not only are musical geniuses, but black belts in the art of tae-kwon-do, and they’ll be damned if they’re going to let some ninja punks invade their hometown without a fight! The gang sets out to dish out justice their own way as they go up against the ninjas and their “stupid cocaine.”

This…this right here is why I do what I do, people. This may be the most difficult review I have written thus far, just because of how hard it is to put the experience of watching Miami Connection into words. In fact, I really don’t know where to begin. Hmm…let’s just start with me saying that this movie, by nearly all accounts, is abysmal. Everything associated with filmmaking is terrible, from the acting, to the writing, and even to the editing! The cinematography is decent, however, and the fight scenes are really awesome. This movie was Y.K. Kim’s (an inspirational speaker and tae-kwon-do grandmaster) attempt to spread his ideas to a wider audience, so with a miniscule budget and a lot of heart, he set out to do just that. Despite a few scenes where Kim’s character explains how great tae-kwon-do is, and the movie does have themes concerning the importance of family and friends, but for the most part, it’s all just 100% concentrated eighties kung-fu craziness.

The actors who play the members of Dragon sound were all, for the most part, pupils of Y.K. Kim, and it’s quite obvious that none of them had any experience in this field. They’re all different degrees of terrible, with Maurice Smith’s turn as Jim being the highest level (the movie reaches a hysterical zenith of badness when Jim discovers his long-lost father has sent him a letter). At this time, Kim barely knew English, which becomes obvious when he has any sort of speaking part and you can barely understand what he’s saying. That being said, the music in this movie is really good! Well, saying it’s “good” is going a bit far, but for your stereotypical electric guitars ‘n’ synthesizers, it’s awesome (“Against the Ninja” and “Friends” are stand-outs), and their on-stage antics (explosions, flashing neon lights, big hair, mullets) are to die for.

The biggest entertainment source in Miami Connection is the so-bad-it’s-a-riot moments. A lot of the dialogue spoken by the actors is pure ad-libbing, and when it comes to improvising, these actors are still awful! Whether they’re hurling insults at a person who’s been beaten up (“You gotta watch out for girl scouts, y’know?”) or yelling at the musician you just fired (“Your music’s for old people!”), the laughs are non-stop. Then there’s the final fight between the white ninja and Kim, and while the white ninja is supposed to be Asian, at one point, his mask partially comes off, revealing not only a white man, but a white man with a bushy mustache! If there is a fault to be had with the movie, it’s that there’s a lot of unnecessary scenes thrown in that could have easily been taken out. While a lot of these scenes are superfluous, most of them have a lot of corny charm to be found in them (the scene in the computer class featuring those dinosaur machines), with the exception of a lengthy biker scene, where the gang of biker ninjas head to a bar for some good times. This leads to an excruciating scene filled with bikers drinking beer, smoking, and some of the worst boobs ever to hit the screen, all set to a song called “Tough Guys.” Ehh.

Where the movie really shines (in a positive way this time) is in the fight scenes. Kim proves he deserves his title as grandmaster by dishing out amazing (and sometimes slow-mo) ass-kickings throughout the movie, including a spectacularly violent finale when Kim and another member of Dragon Sound go nuts with katana blades and slaughter mass numbers of ninjas. The locations for the fights vary and are all really neat: a construction site, a swamp (no gators, though), a train yard, a night club, and more! And it all ends with the statement, “Only through the elimination of violence can we achieve world peace.” Truly touching.

I’ve watched Miami Connection three times since I first saw it in November, and the experience has only gotten better. I even got to view it in the theater, which was a wonderful experience, even though there wasn’t exactly a large audience. This is the kind of movie where even if I had watched Night of Horror ten times in a row, a single viewing of Miami Connection would make it all better. I am VERY glad Drafthouse Films rescued Miami Connection from obscurity, giving it the royal treatment with a brief theatrical run and all kinds of cool goodies offered on their websites, from shirts to VHS tapes to vinyl records and beyond! I am the proud owner of a Dragon Sound shirt, and it has since become my favorite article of clothing to wear whenever I want to feel at my best. The picture quality on the Blu-Ray is a little sketchy because Hurricane Charlie really did a number on the original print. It’s the best the film will ever look, and the gratuitous amount of grain just adds to the fun. It also comes with some cool bonus features, like an audio commentary, a making-of, deleted scenes (which mainly consists of stuff like the band trying out instruments, one of them giving a guitar demonstration in class, etc.), a very depressing alternate ending, a Dragon Sound reunion concert (age has not been kind to Angelo Janotti’s voice), a “Who is Y.K. Kim?” video, and a sweet trailer created by Hobo with a Shotgun-director Jason Eisner. A definitive edition if there ever was one. In the late-eighties, pretty much every action movie seeing release was either a rip-off or had a plot that had already been done to death. However, there really isn’t anything similar to Miami Connection; Y.K. Kim (who wasn’t a movie person at all) created something he felt was right, and it’s this kind of delightful innocence that drives the film. Well, and the incredible fights, the crazy finale, the terrible acting, the appalling ad-libbing, the killer soundtrack, the surprising amount of gore, and the lightning-fast pace. It's cemented itself as my fourth favorite movie of all time, and rightfully so.

The Verdict: Hilarious, action-packed, and sweetly naive, Miami Connection is the best so-bad-it’s-awesome movie in existence, no questions asked. It’s actually quite simple, really: if you don’t like Miami Connection, I don’t like you. It’s cold, but that’s the way it’s got to be.

Score: 10/10

And...

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