Sometimes, just sometimes, I’ll hold off on reviewing a film for what I consider a special occasion. For example, I held off covering any James Bond films until just before Skyfall was released because I felt it would make sense to cover them all at once. Same reason I’m covering the Godzilla films right now. Miami Connection is a film I wanted to hold off on until just the right moment. It needed to be a milestone film. And not one of them X50 milestones. This HAD to be a X00 milestone. I intended to review it 100 films ago as review 200 but I discovered that the Blu-ray was not region free a little too late and was unable to get another copy in time. That has been sorted this time around. I’ve held of watching what many now regard as the best-worst movie. Sorry Troll 2. If you have never heard of Miami Connection I implore you to read this review, maybe also watch the episode of Red Letter Media’s Best of the Worst where they cover this, and them embrace the fact that you will need to see this as soon as possible. Click the link below for The Film Dump’s 300th review!
Miami Connection weaves the sort of tale we can all relate too. Tae Kwon Do themed band Dragon Sound, made up of 5 University students all in their late 20s to early 30s, who are also orphans, have found themselves in a tight spot when a rival band doesn’t like the fact that they’ve taken their spot at the local venue. The rival band set out to scare Dragon Sound out of town but our heroes are having none of that. They fight off an entire gang, mostly thanks to Mark’s (Y.K. Kim) Tae Kwon Do prowess. This leads the rival band to call in the big guns. They go to local no good ruffian Jeff (William Ergle), who has a grudge with Dragon sound due to his sister Jane (Kathie Collier) being involved with band member John (Vincent Hirsch). Jeff agrees to help get rid of Dragon Sound and brings in his gang of ninja bikers. Meanwhile, Dragon Sound’s keyboard Maestro Jim (Maurice Smith) believes he may have a chance to find his father.
Does that sound like a lot of awesome to take in at once? Yes this film has everything. Martial Arts, songs, and international cast, romance, bloodshed, ninjas and evens some topless male on male hugging scenes. I’m not even sure how to categorise this film in my genres tab. Might just tick all the boxes to be sure. There’s action with street fights and forest based ninja fights. We’re treated to a few of Dragon Sound’s hit songs such as “Friends” and “Against the Ninja”, the former of which you may know as that awesome end credits song from Far Cry: Blood Dragon. We’ve got believable forbidden love with John and Jane. We got family drama as Jim comes to terms with the idea of meeting the father that abandoned him at a young age. He really has to come to terms with that. There’s even a oddly long Tae Kwon Do demonstration which, very subtly, hints at the film’s finale.
Before I go into full mockery mode, let us discuss what Miami Connection gets right. There is a few scenes where an element is set up and then, later, pays off. Whether it pays off well is really something no-one can truly answer, because everything in this film pays off well as far as I’m concerned. The score is pure eighties synth loveliness. The sort of thing you’d usually only hear in films scored by the legend that is Vince DiCola. This film isn’t scored by Vince DiCola though. This is scored by Jon McCallum who… HOLY SHIT… scored Surf Nazis Must Die. Well damn. I almost did that film as the 3rd birthday review. The action in Miami Connection is actually pretty good. Y.K. Kim and Vincent Hirsch are actually pretty legit at the whole action kicky punchy thing. I do wonder if someone had come across Kim at a younger age and taught him how to make sounds with his mouth that resemble English words what his status today could have been.
Upon seeing the first few moments of Miami Connection you may think you’ve stumbled across another Godfrey Ho movie. Assuming you’ve sampled the delights of Godfrey Ho’s oeuvre. This would be an easy mistake to make given the film’s cult status but, if you look really closely you’ll see that some of the shots are roughly framed correctly and some of the dialogue was captured live. Not much of the dialogue, but some. With the amount of ADR done on this film you’d have to question why no-one dubbed Y.K. Kim, but then you remember that he co-directed this film along with Woo-Sang Park, and so he likely didn’t have any trouble with understanding what his character was saying. By the way, Woo-Sang Park was credited as Richard park. Someone knew to take their name off this at the time. Regretting it now I bet. What’s that? He died in 2006.? … oh … ohhhhh. Well, shame he didn’t live to see Miami Connection become the adored work it now is then.
The reason for Miami Connection’s new found fame is largely down to how everything other than what I mentioned is done with a level of ineptitude usually reserved for such classics as Troll 2, Manos: The Hands of Fate and any number of 80s martial arts flicks. The acting and film’s plotting are easily it’s too most weakly realised aspects. The actors, and I use that term loosely in the right sense as a lot of the cast were not actors at all, all seem to stumble over their lines. There’s a number of scenes that don’t appear to have even been scripted as the actors talk over each other, reiterate points and plain don’t appear to know what to say next. An argument between the rival band’s leader, Old Rock Band Leader (Jack McLaughlin), and Club Owner (William Young) is a prime example of how improved a scene can be in Miami Connection. Obviously this argument leads to a good old fashioned kung fu fight between a group of middle aged men.
Possibly the film’s most moving and powerful performance comes from Maurice Smith as Jim. His distress upon feeling that he must come clean to the rest of Dragon Sound that he may not actually be an orphan whilst also conveying how much his father hurt him by leaving him and his dying mother when he was just a child is conveyed in a manner that may be a little too real for many viewers today. In an age where actors tend to restrain their emotions, when internet forums would call any sort of emoting “over-acting”, Maurice has the bravery to fully embrace those tears and hold nothing back. Later, upon finding out that his father wants to met with him to make up for his past mistakes Jim’s happiness is palatable and unrestrained. The fact this is his one and only acting role shows how strong a believer he must have been in the old adage “Tis best to burn brightly for a short time than to never shine at all”… or something like that.
It is hard to fully quantify Miami Connection’s worth as a film. Whilst it is perfectly fair to say that it isn’t the best produced film ever made, nor does it really delve into any great truths we could learn from ourselves. Well, other than to not mess with that Korean guy, cos he’s a badass. The film’s worth really comes from it’s heart and charm. Ever inept moment will bring a smile to your face. Every action scene will bring about some sort of reaction ranging from laughter to full blown whooping and hollering. When Dragon Sound plays you’ll be tapping your toe along within seconds. This is one of those films where you can tell that not all the people involved may have known exactly what they were doing, but they still approached the film with the kind of gusto and honest effort needed for an audience to connect.
It is really hard to quantify what a truly great film actually is. Can you say that Miami Connection has as much worth as a film as, say, 2001: A Space Odyssey? On a thematic and technical level, absolutely not. But can your unbridled enjoyment of a film be measured in the same capacity as any artistic stimulation provided by the traditional greats of cinema? I like to think so. The purpose of art is to provoke reaction and emotion. Miami Connection manages to do both in a positive way. You may be laughing at it at times, but with a group of friends you can laugh together. You can bond with a stranger over your shared enjoyment of such a film in a way that, really, the big important films will only inspire amongst film lover circles. It’s like how you may love that video of the baby walking on ice that falls over. You’re watching something go horribly wrong in front of your eyes but, at the same time, it brings such joy to yourself and the people you share it with that it becomes something you can cherish. It may have taken nearly 25 years for the audience this film needed to be found, but find it they have. And now, if you haven’t, I implore you to indulge in Miami Connection also. Only then can you truly understand why this film has become so loved.