Tagline: Survival: the ultimate test.
Director: Woo-sang Park
Writers: Woo-sang Park, Y.K. Kim
Starring: Y. K. Kim, Vincent Hirsch, Joseph Diamond, Maurice Smith, Angelo Janotti, Kathy Collier, William Ergle, Si Y Jo, Woo-sang Park
18 | 83 min | Action/Martial Arts
After almost three decades of obsolescence cult martial arts movie Miami Connection was rescued from obscurity by Drafthouse Films, a heaven-sent distribution company who claim to ‘destroy the barriers between grindhouse and art-house’, and let me be the first to thank them. Miami Connection is that age-old story of an ’80s syth-rock band who spend their spare time taking down international drug syndicates with some everyday street-bound Taekwondo. It is a movie of big hair, neon nightclubs and infectious original music from the movie’s storyline band, Dragon Sound, who actually held a 25th Anniversary reunion concert at Fantastic Fest in 2012, performing cult classics such as ‘Against the Ninja’ and ‘Friends’, while looking decidedly worse-for-wear after surviving a decade of coke-fuelled decadence.
On the surface of things this is a terrible movie, so misjudged and puerile in conception that I often found myself envisaging a toddler in a high chair directing events, naively pleased after wrapping up a scene in which the nobly passive Dragon Sound are goaded into vengeful feats of highkickery after having beer poured on their heads. In spite of the fact that the movie plays out like a schoolyard game of cops and robbers (or perhaps because of that fact) I guarantee you will go back for at least one repeat viewing. It’s not a case of ‘They don’t make films like this any more.’ They never made a film like this ever.
As well as the many directorial shortcomings, the entire cast are just terrible. Everywhere you look the screen is littered with a mishmash of archetypal extras, clueless mopes who loiter conspicuously instead of merely fading into the background. Even worse are the movie’s central characters, who as well as becoming tangled in reams of overlapping dialogue seem to choke on their lines like nervous adolescents failing a class presentation. Of course, they are not helped by the screenplay itself, which is basically a giant exercise in exposition. Lines like ‘Jane, I’ve been wondering. Do you have any family or anything?’ would sound unnatural rolling off the tongue of even the most accomplished veteran, while Lieutenant Frank Drebin would probably have a field day.
There are other narratives buried beneath the incessant fighting and pop performances. Jane’s brother and gang leader Jeff (Ergle) is her only remaining relative following a ludicrous spate of family misfortunes, and he doesn’t take kindly to boyfriend John (Hirsch) or her late night exploits with pop group Dragon Sound. Flanked by the entire cast of Michael Jackson’s Bad, Jeff is soon threatening to waste the lanky dipshit boning his sister. That is until marital arts supremo Y.K. Kim shows up – an actor who makes an early Arnold Schwarzenegger look like Orson Welles by comparison – and after he and the rest of Dragon Sound are pushed into the frame by a team of exasperated stagehands, Jeff and his gang decide to back off. But this, as they say, is only the beginning.
When not hanging out at the gym with a second-rate gang of extras, Jeff is pouring his heart out to Yashito, an international drug smuggler with a whole fleet of ninjas. Yashito is the kind of ruthless crime king who enquires about his mule’s sister over tea, only to discover that she is ‘still hanging out with that damn band Dragon Sound!’ whose pesky heroics continue to put a dent in his narcotics empire. A dozen band aids later and Jeff still hasn’t figured out that a single clip of bullets would be enough to dispose of this scourge forever. Apparently martial arts experts outnumbered machine guns by a thousand to one in 1980s Miami.
Meanwhile, Kool and the Gang castoff Jim gives a tear-jerking performance when revealing to his band mates that he is not an orphan like the rest of them — that he in fact has a father who left when he was very young. Jim had promised his dying mother that he would one day find his pops, but the deserting bastard doesn’t give a rat’s arse, a sob story that establishes the band’s brotherhood just in time for guitarist Tom’s kidnapping. After pursuing Jeff’s gang with the aim of rescuing their friend, John thoughtfully plays a hand in the death of his girlfriend’s only remaining family member — a fact that she is totally cool with — and soon the gang are celebrating the news that Jim’s father has finally decided to get in touch with his son less than twenty-four hours after his shocking revelation. All is set for the happy ending until Yoshida decides to avenge the loss of his most trusted mule, drawing on his years of tactical expertise by sending a fleet of sword-wielding ninjas to track the band down in broad daylight.
Thanks to its erratic moral compass and inability to define itself, the film’s climax catches you off-guard by becoming an all-out splatterfest. There is some levity, however, when in a quite remarkable twist we find out that Jim has survived almost being cut in half. Not only that but the local police seem unconcerned by the three foot samurai wound to his abdomen, or by the fact that the local rockers left a whole graveyard of corpses in their wake.
At least they meant well.
Slashing his way through a whole host of ninjas, limp noodle John drives a samurai sword through the stomach of yet another foe, twisting the blade into his guts while screaming out to the world with malevolent delight.
Where are the cops when you need them?
Most Absurd Moment
After sending Jeff hurtling from a fifty foot tower, John apologises to main squeeze Jane, who totally gets why he had to kill her last remaining family member. ‘We had to do it. We had no choice,’ he tells her. Taking her brother’s murderer by the hand, she lovingly replies. ‘I understand.’
Most Absurd Dialogue
Following a disagreement in regards to the night’s entertainment, a usurped band leader and a club manager have a very civil and intellectual discussion in an attempt to resolve their dispute.
Club Manager: ‘What are you in here for? To waste my time?’
Angry Band Member: ‘Look, bitch!’
Club Manager: (overlapping) ‘I thought I fired you!
Angry Band Member: ‘Yeah, you fired me to listen to goddamn Dragon Sound. That’s bullshit! They came in here to play goddamn songs for kids. Now who you bullshittin?”
Club Manager: ‘They play a lot better than you, man. Your music’s for old people!’
Angry Band Member: ‘They play goddamn kiddie music. You don’t know what music’s all about!’
Club Manager: ‘I’ll tell you what…are you deaf? They know how to play, I’ll tell you that. Got it?’
Angry Band Member: ‘Kiss my ass!’
Club Manager: ‘You wanna fight? You’re history!’
Angry Band Member: ‘You’re full of shit!’
I’m glad we cleared that one up!
With hammy costumes, nonsensical dialogue and mind-bending exposition, this playschool production has to be seen to be believed. Pay particular attention to co-writer Y.K. Kim as the inexplicably named Mark. Not only a terrible actor, he finds it impossible to act at simply playing the guitar, randomly prodding the strings and smiling inanely while at one point removing the instrument from his shoulders mid-performance. Other than that the film is pretty convincing. No, really. It is!