(US - 1988)
Directed by Richard Park. Written by Joseph Diamond and Richard Park. Cast: Y.K. Kim, Vincent Hirsch, Joseph Diamond, Maurice Smith, Angelo Janotti, Kathy Collier, William Ergle, Si Y. Jo, Richard Park, William Young, Jack McLaughlin, John Escobar. (Unrated, 87 mins)
Since being filmed in central Florida in 1986 at the height of the staggeringly prolific B-movie ninja craze, MIAMI CONNECTION has taken a strange and unexpected journey from lost film to cult movie sensation. The brainchild of Z-grade NINJA TURF director Richard Park and Korean Tae Kwon Do instructor/motivational speaker/co-producer Grandmaster Y.K. Kim, MIAMI CONNECTION centers on Dragon Sound, Orlando's top Tae Kwon Do rockers: guitarist Mark (Kim), singer/guitarist Tom (Angelo Janotti), keyboardist Jim (Maurice Smith), drummer Jack (co-writer Joseph Diamond), bassist John (Vincent Hirsch), and new female singer and John's girlfriend Jane (Kathy Collier). Dragon Sound gets a steady gig as the house band at Park Avenue ("Central Florida's hottest nightclub"), which enrages the frontman (Jack McLaughlin) of the band they replaced. On top of that, Jane's insanely jealous brother Jeff (William Ergle), the Orlando distributor for Yoshito (Si Y. Jo), Miami's top cocaine dealer, doesn't want her seeing John. While the members of Dragon Sound (orphaned best friends who live together and attend the University of Central Florida) just want to live by the philosophies of Tae Kwon Do, play their music, hang out at the restaurant owned by fatherly Uncle Song (Park), and tour the world to promote peace and goodwill, they have to deal with the kung-fu treachery of Jeff's goons and the lethal ninja motorcycle gang dispatched by Yoshito.
heartfelt monologue about his long-lost father), you can barely understand anything Kim says, the editing is less than fluid (some scenes just stop), and the songs are awful...but you won't be able to help yourself. You will be cheering Dragon Sound on. You will be singing along to such songs as "Friends" and "Against the Ninja." You will, despite every fiber of your being telling you that it's wrong, have a genuine blast watching this thing.
Image Entertainment/Drafthouse Films' Blu-ray (1.85:1 anamorphic) looks surprisingly good considering that the original negative was damaged in flooding from a hurricane in 2004. Carlson hosts a commentary track featuring Kim and Diamond, and all five members of Dragon Sound are interviewed in another segment. Also included in the special features are Park's original, far more downbeat ending, deleted scenes (the best being Dragon Sound getting booted out of a music instrument store by the irate manager, fed up with them always coming in to jam but never buying anything), and footage from a Dragon Sound reunion show (!) at the 2012 Fantastic Fest. YES!
Unlike bad-movie favorites of recent years like TROLL 2 , THE ROOM, and BIRDEMIC, MIAMI CONNECTION is that rare bad movie that you find yourself not mocking with hipper-than-thou snark, but legitimately enjoying. It's genuinely earnest, well-meaning, and filled with hokey positivity that will win over even the most jaded viewer. In other words, you have to be a total dick to not find this thing incredibly entertaining and Y.K. Kim's belated, dreams-really-do-come-true success story oddly moving. What else can I say? I love MIAMI CONNECTION.