Miami Connection is a 1980s martial arts film that has recently been touring North American theaters in hopes of finding a cult following for lovers of bad cinema. I mean really, really, bad cinema. The Troll 2 and The Room variety. It features competent martial artists who are stuck in a mess of incompetent filming, acting, writing, music, lighting…anything that generally makes a good movie. The trailer gives a good idea of what to expect.
If anyone knows of an original trailer, I’d love to see it!
This trailer only scratches the surface of the multiple problems with this film. The story starts in Miami at night when a cocaine deal goes bad. (Going bad meaning that a team of black-cloaked ninjas swarms a gang of thugs and steals their coke). The ninja leader Yashito (Si Y Jo), takes the drugs to his buyer named Jeff (William Eagle). They meet at a local nightclub where unbeknown to Jeff, his sister Jane (Kathy Collier) is a singing with a band called Dragon Sound.
The members of Dragon Sound are all martial artists, including John who is romantically linked with one of the singers named Jane. The members of Dragon Sound are confronted by rival bands (who are jealous of Dragon Sounds gigs and popularity) and Jeff’s gang (who doesn’t like John dating his sister Jane). After various unsuccessful fights between the gangs and Dragon Sound, Jeff accidentally falls to his death. This brings Yashito’s attention to Dragon Sound who sends his squad of ninjas to finish them off.
Cheesy doesn’t begin describe Miami Connection. It crosses the boders of cheese into always fascinating “what were they thinking?” territory. For starters, the protagonists (who all look about 20 years too old to be in college dorm buddies) have no charisma. Zip. Nil. Even your average Disney protagonist have a bit of an edge to them, but these guys make Shirley Temple feel like Gordon Liu. When they aren’t giving martial arts a bad name, Dragon Sound also manage to ruin rock music. Their “Against the Ninja” song in the trailer will rekindle everyone’s memories of the worst qualities usually associated with 1980s music. And I’m not even going talk about the second song: “Friends Forever“.
Another scene that goes on forever showcases a martial arts demonstration. Not a fight, just a mock demonstration which includes moves that involve people’s noses are grabbed between toes. Why is this in the movie!? I’ve concluded that it’s in the film to pad the running time or to promote YK Kim’s training dojos. What’s most unfortunate about Miami Connection is that during the fight scenes, all the actors are obviously competent martial artists who do show off some sort of skill. But most of these fight scenes take place at night and are poorly lit and edited which ruins any genuine enjoyment of them. I do not want to spoil too much more, but I must mention my favourite scene that involves the ninjas arriving to ambush Dragon Sound on motorcycles (!). As soon John spots them, he flatly delivers the line “Aw no…Ninjas!”.
For me, bad films have to have one continuous over the top level of awfulness to make them enjoyable. Miami Connection begins to lose it’s shtick when the goof ball dialog becomes minimal and the story fails to go into the crazy improbability of let’s say…Ninja III: The Domination. I would still recommend watching it if for the good amount of cheap laughs as it’s still a minor, but still pretty amazing piece of bad cinema.
Miami Connection VHS cover
Whenever I see a film as bad as Miami Connection, I get obsessed with it. How was it made? Where did it go wrong? Who’s to blame? I’ve done a little research about the production of the film. And it mostly surrounds the actor, writer and co-director YK Kim.
In the early 1980s YK Kim created one of the largest Taekwondo organizations in the world. He had schools in eight locations including one in my current home: Ottawa, Canada. In 1985, Kim was approached by the Korean filmmaker Woo-sang Park who had the film’s basic plot in mind after watching Kim being interviewed about one of his Taekwondo books. Park had previously made the mysteriously ninja-less film known as Ninja Turf. Kim was not an avid film fan and only watched about two or three movies a year, but agreed to to help make the film. For the production staff, Kim hired many of his martial arts students who either had a role in the movie or contributed props and facilities. Kim also put forth his own money (over one-million dollars) to aid the film’s production. Co-producer William Young said the total budget of the film ran ”seven figures, a couple times over.” Miami Connection never had a written script as Woo-sang Park fed lines to actors before filming.
On watching a private screening of Miami Connection, Kim said the film made him feel physically sick. On trying to sell the film to Cannes International Film Festival, he was told “It isn’t a movie”. Down but not out, Kim read eight books on film making and by 1987, he had re shot most of the film including changing movie’s ending and adding new dialogue. The film received negative reviews from critics, and Kim did not expect the film to turn a profit. ”I know I lost money in the movie, but I do not regret it at all…I’m very proud to have finished it. I can work hard to pay off my debts. That’s a piece of cake.”
YK Kim has not made another film since Miami ConnectionMiami Connection as after a jarringly bloody battle finishes the film, we are left with this quote.
I still believe in your vision YK Kim! For more fun, check out his new career as a “modern philosopher” which is as humorous as his film.