Looking for a bizarre B-Movie to enjoy this holiday season? You can hardly go wrong with Miami Connection.
Here’s a single sentence that will help you determine if Miami Connection is your kind of B-Movie: The opening scene is a fight sequence between ninja bikers and drug dealers in 1980s business suits.
Outside of the phrase “Somewhere in Miami” (made ominous by lightning and nighttime filming) absolutely no dialogue is added to provide context for this scene. A group of criminals, armed with uzis, wait in an abandoned area until finally joined by men in business suits. The leaders of both parties are clearly marked because they’re wearing white hats. Without a word, product is exchanged: bags of cocaine hidden inside a Korean food shipment.
But it turns out these drug dealers were right to carry weapons, even if they wouldn’t do much good. As this meeting proceeds, ninjas (who arrived nearby on motorcycles) are sneaking into position. Once the money and drugs are confirmed to have arrived, they strike. The drug dealers and their automatic weapons don’t stand a chance against ninjas armed with swords and shirukens. Those who survive the longest are those who attempt to match them with martial arts, but even they are quickly overcome. Their work complete, the ninjas grab the cocaine and money and flee to their home base.
Sadly, these aren’t charitable, good guy ninjas clearing out drug dealers in the area. These are evil motorcycle ninjas, who have slowly been been taking control of Florida’s drug trade and murdering the competition. Seemingly unstoppable, no one can stand in their way…
… Except for a band of musicians who happen to be black belt Taekwondo experts. Because that’s the kind of movie Miami Connection is.
Created in 1987, Miami Connection was born when Korean filmmaker Richard Park saw martial arts instructor Y.K. Kim on a Korean talk show. Park immediately got in touch with Kim and proposed producing an independent martial arts film, under the working title of Kim’s dojo TaeKwon-Do. Kim became enamored with the project, writing the script and starring as the lead while heavily investing his savings in the film. But the finished film almost bankrupted Kim, if it weren’t for a small distribution company finally buying it for $100,000. (For context, the film cost about $1 million to produce.)
Almost everyone involved in the project never took part in a movie again, and Kim himself went on to become a motivational speaker. But Miami Connection itself languished in obscurity until Drafthouse Films re-released it through a series of midnight showings. It’s certainly done far better in the “so-bad-it’s-good” category of movies that Mystery Science Theater 3000 would have lampooned mercilessly.
Not that you can’t enjoy Miami Connection on its own merits, which feels like a movie that came from the same universe as Double Dragon. Its heroes are members of the band Dragon Son, provided the simple names of Mark (played by Kim), John, Jack, Jim, and Tom. Their hit music brings sellout crowds to the clubs they play at, despite being basically the same verse played over and over and over and over and over. (Seriously, we spend a lot of time on band scenes for a movie about ninja fights.) Their latest band member is John’s girlfriend Jane, a student at the University of Central Florida.
Let’s take a moment to review that briefly: The main character’s names are Mark, Tom, John, Jack, Jim, and Jane. No one seems to have a last name. Also, lead singer Tom is rocking an incredible mullet/mustache combo. Because that’s the kind of movie Miami Connection is.
Anyway. Jane has had an especially hard life, which she spontaneously relays to John before changing the topic just as quickly.
John: Jane I’ve wondered about your family, do you have any family or anything? I haven’t met anybody yet or…
Jane: Well, I have a brother. As a matter of fact and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be going to this nice school and staying in the nice dorm room I’m staying in.
John: That’s really nice of him.
Jane: Except for one thing… I don’t really like him.
John: What? You don’t like your own brother, why?
Jane: Well, I can’t really explain it, I just don’t like him.
John: What about your parents?
Jane: Well, they were divorced when I was young, my dad took off with some young girl and left my mom and brother and myself and she had to raise us all by herself. She had a tough life. And she… shortly after that died. And my father died a little while he left us. But speaking of my brother, I think it’s time to go meet him.
The problem? Jane’s brother Jeff is second-in-command of the motorcycle ninjas, and he doesn’t want Jane hanging out with this band. He swoops in with his gang, parks in two handicapped spots, harasses Jane for singing at the club, then punches John in the face. You know, in case the cocaine deals weren’t enough to make him the bad guy. It comes dangerously close to escalating into a full-blown brawl in the university parking lot when the rest of Dragon Sound shows up to hold them off. But now the band is on Jeff’s radar, and he doesn’t need much of an excuse to destroy them.
Lucky for him, that opportunity arrives when a musician who lost his gig to Dragon Sound approaches Jeff with a proposition: get rid of the band and he’ll give Jeff his profits. I assume Jeff would normally ignore this because he’s a freaking cocaine dealer who doesn’t need washed up musician money, but now he’s got a personal vendetta. What he didn’t account for was Miami Connection occurs in a parallel dimension where everyone knows Taekwondo. At least three members of the band are black belts, the man who runs their favorite restaurant can take out anyone who refuses to pay the bill, and the freaking club owner has a martial arts fight for no reason in the middle of the movie. I assume this is why no one seems especially phased by ninja bikers: they’re just a minor level up from everyone else.
So for most of the movie, Dragon Sound goes about their business until members of the gang attack, and the band completely wipes the floor with them. Eventually Jeff steps up his game by kidnapping Tom, but leaving a pristine mullet-stache in danger can’t be abided. The band immediately launches a rescue mission, during which they accidentally kill Jeff, which John worries will be especially upsetting to Jane. But she takes it surprisingly well:
Jane: I had a lot of thinking to do, I’m hurting inside, you know, and I just couldn’t stay away for long because I love you so much.
John: I’m so sorry about what happened, I feel so bad about that.
Jane: It’s not your fault, I understand.
John: We had to do it, we had no choice.
Jane: I understand. It’s all over now.
John: That’s true.
Jane: It’s okay. We’re happy for Jim.
John: That’s right. You finally found your father.
Oh yeah, Jim’s father. So every now and then Miami Connection introduces random side plots that don’t go anywhere, just to keep you on your toes. Secondary characters will get into a spontaneous martial arts fight, or Tom’s mustache will try to pick up women at the beach. (And he fails? Impossible!) One of these side plots is Jim’s emotional reveal that he never had a relationship with his father, and has been working hard to try and track him down. But good news! He finally receives a letter from his father, the band makes arrangements to meet him when he arrives in Orlando, and it looks like all will be well. Mark, John, and Jim just have to get him to the airport and this family will finally be reunited.
But it’s a trap. The true leader of the motorcycle ninja gang, Yashito, is enraged at Jeff’s death and plans vengeance. His bikers cut Mark’s car off before the airport and attack, mortally wounding Jim mere hours before he was supposed to meet his father. But because Yashito hasn’t realized he’s fighting highly skilled musicians, that means Mark and John go on a murder rampage against every single ninja that dared attack them. John tears off his shirt in a single stroke and goes running around the woods covered in blood with a sword. Mark, meanwhile, enters one-on-one combat with Yashito and brutally kills him.
But it’s okay because Jim’s alive! He just needed to get to a hospital, where he can finally meet his father. And now that Dragon Sound has horrifically murdered or pummeled all of its enemies the band never needs to fear retribution again. We are then provided the following moral to the story without a shred of irony:
“Only through the elimination of violence can we achieve world peace.”
Because that’s the kind of movie Miami Connection is.
Bottom Line: Miami Connection is a spectacular B-Movie experience of ninjas, bikers, ninja bikers, and the black belt musicians who step up to fight them. It’s basically an intersection of bad dialogue, silly side plots, and ridiculous martial arts fights that really deserves your attention this holiday season.
Recommendation: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon used one of Dragon Sound’s hit singles for its end credits. What more do you need to know?