If you live near a movie theater that shows independent films, you might have heard about the midnight movie phenomenon that is Miami Connection. If not, though, don’t fret: the movie is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and reasonably-priced digital copy… and trust me, this is not something you want to miss.
Miami Connection had a very limited release back in 1987 before it was declared a flop and immediately forgotten. Almost 25 years later, the Alamo Drafthouse purchased a print of the film off Ebay with no idea what it was. What they discovered was a virtual time capsule of 80s pop culture: a movie about ninjas, martial arts, a pop rock band, cocaine, and friendship. Oh, one other thing: it was independently made, and, well, it’s hilariously awful. Before I go on, do yourself a favor and watch this trailer here.
Now, believe me when I say that the trailer actually makes the movie look a bit more polished than it actually is. I saw a review that says the film “feels like The Way of the Dragon meets the movie-within-a-movie from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” and that is an eerily accurate description (though I might throw in Jem, too). One of the only legitimately professional aspects of the movie is the martial arts, and that’s because the star, co-writer and producer is Y.K. Kim, a taekwondo master from Central Florida. The movie was mostly filmed in Orlando and the surrounding areas, and all the actors are students from Y.K. Kim’s studios. So what we have here is a movie that is essentially completely amateur, but also completely sincere, and a labor of love and fun.
The plot, as described on their official website:
The year is 1987. Motorcycle ninjas tighten their grip on Florida’s narcotics trade, viciously annihilating anyone who dares move in on their turf. Multi-national martial arts rock band Dragon Sound have had enough, and embark on a roundhouse wreck-wave of crime-crushing justice. When not chasing beach bunnies or performing their hit song “Against the Ninja,” Mark (taekwondo master/inspirational speaker Y.K. Kim) and the boys are kicking and chopping at the drug world’s smelliest underbelly. It’ll take every ounce of their blood and courage, but Dragon Sound can’t stop until they’ve completely destroyed the dealers, the drunk bikers, the kill-crazy ninjas, the middle-aged thugs, the “stupid cocaine”… and the entire MIAMI CONNECTION!!!
It’s easy to say the movie is “so bad it’s good,” but that’s a cliche that gets applied to everything from Girls Just Want to Have Fun to Commando, so it feels like too bland and generic a description (although, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun meets Commando” isn’t a bad way to describe Miami Connection either).
Let’s put it this way: I sat down to watch this movie for the irony and the nostalgia (my family moved to Orlando just months after this film was made, so this really is the Orlando of my earliest memories). I was instantly awestruck at just how terrible the acting really is, and some parts left me nearly crying with laughter. But Miami Connection is like the Little Cindy-Lou Who of movies: the music gets stuck in your head and the endearing sincerity of the whole thing gets stuck in your heart, and the next thing you know you’re singing “Against the Ninja” and contemplating buying a Dragon Sound tanktop (or muscle shirt, as they were called back then).
All right, maybe that’s just me, and you’ll really just be watching it for the jaw-droppingly bad delivery and bizarre editing. But take my advice: get a group of friends together and watch this with the intent of having fun. You don’t have to see a midnight showing at a theater to pull out your 80s neon and short-shorts. And order a pizza! Because, as any 80s kid knows, that’s what ninjas eat. Digital copies and special packages are available at the official website; the standalone DVD and Blu-Ray are here.
Have you seen Miami Connection? What are your thoughts on the film?