I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Miami Connection

Y.K. Kim is a motivational speaker, author of books with titles like Winning Is a Choice and The New American Dream. He sells a 5-CD set called “U.S. National Exercise” that boasts “It’s amazing! You can even exercise while driving without any extra time!” On his websight he’s quoted as saying, “Success: 1% is the idea, 99% is action. Put your goals into action, never and ever give up until you achieve your goals.”

In 1987 his goal was to make an action movie.

Kim stars in and directs MIAMI CONNECTION, a crazy low budget Orlando production about a coke gang that gets mad at a rock band for taking over their club gig and sends ninja bikers to kill them. I guess it’s in a similar genre to STUNT ROCK, but with less stunts and funnier rock with more emphasis on keyboards. The band is called Dragon Sound. They perform while wearing their taekwando gis (or at least the pants and belts – they go shirtless alot). A song that appears on the soundtrack more than once includes the catchy chorus:

“Friends forever / we’ll be to-gether / We’re on top cuz we play to wi-in / Friends for eternity / Loyalty, honesty / Stay together through thick and thi-in…”

Other songs are harder to decipher so you kinda do a double take every time you catch a lyric like “Taekwando is a way of life” or “We must conquer the evil of the ninjas.”

The band all live together and are all orphans. Kim might be their martial arts instructor, because he’s the only one who’s Asian. A tall skinny white guy is dating a girl who has just joined Dragon Sound as a singer. She goes to University of Central Florida, studying computer programming. Her brother pays her tuition, but she doesn’t like him because he’s very jealous and hangs out with sketchy people – I guess she doesn’t realize that he’s high up in a ninja drug gang. When she takes her boyfriend to meet him he shows up wearing a sleeveless camo shirt, fingerless gloves, dangly fang earring and backed by about three carloads of toughs in similar outfits.

It’s one of those movies where they have no choice but to take whatever dudes they know and put sunglasses and vests on them to pretend that makes them intimidating. The main guys do seem like actual martial artists, though, it’s not Dolemite style.

There are a surprising number of scenes involving the band going through their mail. I guess they gotta establish the mail routine in order to set up this dramatic scene where a character hears from his biological father for the first time:

 

The ninja clan/drug gang is real worried because the one guy’s sister has been hanging out with Dragon Sound, so that’s what leads to the huge loss of human life in the movie. I mean, you could see why they would be upset. When the guy in the clip goes to meet his father for the first time they get attacked by ninjas (“Oh, ninjas!” he says) and next thing you know the nice boyfriend is shirtless running around in water screaming and stabbing ninjas to death with a sword. There’s a weird amount of screaming in the action scenes, both by the people doing the stabbing and the people getting stabbed.

The leader of the ninja clan wears white, but is not what I consider a White Ninja, because he’s not Caucasian, he’s regular Asian. I guess he wears white because he’s a Cocaine Ninja. A traditional black ninja outfit helps you blend into the night and the shadows, but this guy might need to blend into a huge pile of coke. He mostly appears in the movie in an advisory capacity, telling the other guy that he better do something about Dragon Sound. But I will go ahead and qualify him as a good villain because of the scene where the one ninja that survived attacking Dragon Sound comes to him and says, “Boss – everybody’s dead!” The Cocaine Ninja responds to the news by beheading the guy and then laughing for a long time.

The most enjoyable moments in a movie like this are never the fights, they’re the strange things that would probly never be filmed or left in if it was made by professionals. There’s alot of guys jumping into convertibles to show off, but why do they leave in the shot where one of the heroes tries to do it and doesn’t quite make it? I don’t know, but I’m thankful for it.

My favorite scene is probly the one where a guy representing the previous house band at the club (I’m unclear but I believe the old band was associated with the coke ninjas) gets in a big argument with the club owner for booking Dragon Sound. While most of the acting in the movie is terrible, this one part almost seems like an actual argument between two crazy assholes. The best part is that the one guy hates Dragon Sound because they’re for dumb teenagers and the club owner hates his band because it’s not. “YOUR MUSIC’S FOR OLD PEOPLE, BUDDY!” he yells at the top of his lungs.

I heard about this movie from some ex-Seattle people who are now in Austin. This guy Zack Carlson (co-writer of the excellent book Destroy All Movies) has an encyclopedic knowledge of these type of movies, and he sort of discovered this one. I guess he does a thing at the Alamo Drafthouse where he shows the first reel of a bunch of the prints they’ve acquired, and this one blew everybody away. How could it not? The first reel has a Miami Vice type drug deal attacked by ninjas, it has bikers, it has Dragon Sound.

Zack’s love for the movie has led to Drafthouse Films acquiring the rights and announcing plans for a limited theatrical release followed by special edition blu-ray and DVD. It’s funny, this movie might as well have been engineered to be re-discovered ironically by Austin hipsters. (I don’t mean that in a bad way.) The clothes, the music, there are even characters with modern hipster beards. It’s almost too good to be true. I wonder if anybody will think it’s one of these fake retro cult movies like NORWEGIAN NINJA, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN or THE FP.

I’ve made this point before, but movies like this are kind of like what they call “outsider art.” They have the same unpolished appeal and the same uncomfortable feeling because there’s a thin line between appreciation and condescension. We like this movie because it offers these weird things that you don’t get in a movie made by professionals, and that includes really terrible acting and dialogue that, let’s be honest, we’re laughing at. But this one is just so amazing that it exists – made in a city not known for film production, by enterprising outsiders that did a surprisingly good job of cramming exciting things on screen, with all the perfect dated elements to be really funny and appealing decades later, plus characters that don’t fit the standard action hero mold but seem unaware of that fact.

There aren’t many movies of this type that play this well. And not many that have a gimmick as ’80s Saturday morning cartoon as an orphan taekwando rock band by night fighting ninja crime by day.

God damn, these fuckin songs tormented me all through the next day after watching the movie, they got stuck in my head. Be careful. I’m sure they’ll probly try to do a soundtrack album if the masters are available, but I hope they’ll stop and think it through first. It could be dangerous. It’s really cool that they’re gonna be sharing this movie with a wider audience than it ever got before, but they gotta be aware of the consequences of putting the song “Against the Ninja” into people’s brains.

But you know, it’s like the old saying goes: any movie that has ninjas, bikers, a beach scene and taekwondo guys playing guitars and keyboards has a higher than average chance of being worth watching. It sounds too good to be true, but it lives up to it. It’s surprisingly well-stocked with craziness and weird nuances, and will play great with audiences if they can get them into the theater.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 at 1:52 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

31 Responses to “Miami Connection”

  1. Believe it or not, I made a not-very-special edition DVD of this movie for my own personal use months ago and never got around to watching it. What a fool I was. That shit is getting rectified immediately.

    Also, it is inconceivable that neither Cocaine Ninja nor Dragon Sound are on Ghostface Killah’s list of official subsidiary nicknames.

    Vern, if you’re looking for another movie in this vein, I recommend a flick called ACTION U.S.A., which was made almost entirely by and for stuntmen in 1989. It’s got no ninjas, but it does have all the ridiculous, unaccountable shit you like AND some pretty great action.

    I could make it happen for you, if you’re interested. Bob’s your uncle, I’m your pusher man, etc.

  2. Reviews like this are the reason you have to love this site. You never know what to expect here, but somehow it all makes sense.

  3. I have been excited about this one since Alamo announced they were going to release it on Blu & DVD, and this review only validates that excitement.

    Didn’t Carlson buy the print of this film off of Ebay based on the title alone without seeing the film, and discovered this little gem?

  4. some movies age like milk

    some movies age like fine wine

  5. This YK Kim guy seems corny as fuck, but my first impression is I like him. He can kick pretty good.

    Bizarre website/infomercial he’s got there. Sort of fucked up that he links to where you can merely buy a black belt, though.
    https://www.mykick.com/belts-patches/color-black-belts.html
    I guess that’s the American way — skip the training and just buy the desired result. The Chiwetel Ejiofor-David Mamet route is more honorable, in my opinion.

    Like Vern mentions, Grandmaster Kim (Good thing his first name doesn’t also start with ‘K’, by the way.) preaches, “It’s amazing! You can even exercise while driving without any extra time!”

    This is accurate in my experience. Send Mouth $39.95 and I’ll tell you the secret technique of holding one arm out perpendicular to your torso while keeping your other hand on the steering wheel and your eyes on the interstate until your extended shoulder burns, which is when you do fist clenches and add the weight of a full Frappucino bottle for one last minute before switching arms.

    That’s how low-level semi-professional boxers strengthen their shoulders on trips between bouts. Fat Americans should do it, too.

  6. Wow, I just got this in a mulit-pack I ordered. Haven’t made my way to it yet, git sidetracked by Black Emmanuelle 2, but I’ll amend that soon. It sounded too crazy to be true, but I guess it is.

  7. SDAL – what was the name of the multi-pack, bro?

    I need this film like the sunshine.

  8. So I watched it last night, and OMG you guys, it is awesome. I’ve seen shitloads of these kinds of movies that start real strong with a great credits sequence and then peter out. Not this one. It keeps it up for the duration.

    There are so many things I love about it. I like that it’s basically a Josie and the Pussycats plot: pop-rock band must fight evil in between performances. It’s a world where what band has the steady gig at the local nightclub is of vital importance to pretty much everybody. This isn’t just about rockin’ tunes. Lives hang in the balance here.

    Speaking of the tunes, they are, obviously, amazing. I’ve already made an mp3 of the end credits theme, “Taekwondo Family,” just in case that remastered soundtrack album never materializes. I realize that once you let the “Against the Ninja” genie out of the bottle you can never put it back, but I’m willing to take that chance, because Dragon Sound is my new favorite band. They’re just adorable. Seriously, I want to be their roadie. They really love each other and are really supportive. Even when one of them bursts out into embarrassing high-pitched weeping, they just give him a hug, pool all their money, and go out and buy the guy a nice suit. I would do anything for friends like these. They rock, they kick ass, they’ve got a sweet convertible and a collection of interesting pants, and they’ve got your back no matter what. It’s a way more endearing collection of badasses than the Expendables or the Losers, I’ll tell you that.

    I just love how positive these guys are. “Taekwondo is the BEST,” says Kim, totally unself-consciously. He’s not bragging, he just thinks taekwondo is totally rad. He’s a big nerd for taekwondo and thinks it can make a difference. Even when they’re chopping ninjas in the neck with yard tools, they’re doing it for the good of us all, which is spelled out by the onscreen epigraph that ends the film: “Only by eliminating violence can world peace be achieved.” Whoa. Deep.

    I mean, it’s possible the lanky white guy gets a little too into the fighting for his own good, what with him ripping his shirt off and running around growling and flexing like the Incredible Hulk. This is not the behavior of a peaceful warrior. I guess he just got caught up in the moment. And it was for a good cause anyway so it’s totally forgivable.

    One great thing about the fights is watching the guys in the background. They’re always shuffling around awkwardly, waiting for their cue to jump into the fight. They look like dorky teenagers at a school dance who are standing off to the side and don’t know what to do with their hands.

    And the movie’s so gory, too! Eyeballs split open, arms severed, heads cut off, blood spraying everywhere, rivers literally running red. It comes out of nowhere, too, because it’s the heroes who draw first blood. The bad guys hadn’t killed any of the good guys when all of a sudden our director/star opens up some random henchman’s neck with what looks like a wooden dowel with a nail in it. Totally gruesome and unexpected, because all the other goons just get knocked out. Not sure what that guy did to deserve to die, but I guess it was okay because the sister isn’t even mad that they end up killing her brother and, one assumes, ending her college carerr. “We had to do it,” says her boyfriend, and she’s like, “I know. It’s cool. I’m just glad Jimmy found his father.”

    Also, there are apparently no policemen in Orlando. You can just leave bodies all over the place and nobody cares. Ever since Disney moved in it’s been like the wild west down there. Gotta sweep all the ninja wars under the rug, can’t let it disrupt the tourist trade. It’s like JAWS, really.

    My only regret is that we never got to hear what the other band sounded like. I bet they were probably pretty good, like a real raw southern rock bar band. If ever a movie deserved to end with a rock-off, it was this one.

    But I guess you wouldn’t want MIAMI CONNECTION to be perfect, lest it offend Allah. I’m definitely buying that special edition DVD when it comes out.

  9. Jareth Cutestory

    June 14th, 2012 at 8:22 am

    This review has furnished me with the psychological equipment I’ll need to finally bother sitting though SCARFACE: I’ll just pretend that Tony Montana is King of the Coke Ninjas. Thanks, Vern.

  10. Never heard of this, but man oh man does it sound amazing. I’ll se if I can wait till the Alamo Drafthouse puts it out on disc, but deep down I really wanna watch this asap.

  11. This will be the best thing I read on the internet today. Thank you Vern.

  12. What if the other band was like real tight big band jazz, and they all wear matching suits? They actually are way better but the kids just don’t appreciate it.

  13. You’re right, there was that scene where they all wore suits, even though they’re all scumbag bikers. Maybe we’ll split the difference and assume they’re one of those white guy blues rock combos like the SNL house band.

    It would be kind of sad if they really were the better band, though. They worked hard to build their chops and then all of a sudden they’re put out of business when the sound moves on. That kind of thing could really eat away at a guy, even drive him to villainy.

    Speaking of being driven to villainy, what was up with the head Coke Ninja suddenly revealing that he was Jeff’s brother? How does that work, exactly? It didn’t seem like they were all that close, but then there’s that little soft focus flashback montage of that time they shared a few lines of dialogue and you’re supposed to feel really sad for his loss.

    Plus, wouldn’t that make the girlfriend the Coke Ninja’s sister, too? I hope Dragon Sound ended up selling a lot of records because she sacrificed her whole family for that band.

  14. Oh Hell, over here in Germany the movie is called “Schwarze Ninja greifen an” (Black Ninjas attack).
    I watched it on the MGM channel (part of our cable service). MGM has some really bad 70’s and 80’s movies in their line up and they keep showing those gems together with Rocky or Heavens Gate.
    The scene when the Dragon Sound guys start to power hug each other on the front lawn is cinematic gold!

  15. Aren’t all Ninjas black? Anyway, I love the MGM channel. Lots of shit that you don’t see anywhere. I mean, tomorrow, they show among other stuff, that I’ve never heard of, TROLL, SHORT CIRCUIT and ROLLING THUNDER! I just wish they would finally air in 16:9, like every other TV channel in Germany does.

  16. CJ Holden, actually, there isn’t a single historical basis for the ninja dressed in black, so commonly associated with them. The real ninja’s most used disguise was peasant. Peasants were invisible, so to speak. Nobody noticed them. Daimos wouldn’t deign to look down on a peasant, unless they were interested in using them to test the sharpness of their katanas. As such, peasant was a perfect disguise for a ninja. He could corss the country, present to be tilling the fields if crossed a group of soldiers, would gain acess to a castle pretending to be a laborer, and thus carry out his deadly job.

    This is one of the things that helps rob the suppoesed realism of the movie DANCES WITH SAMURAI, i mean THE LAST SAMURAI

  17. present = pretend

  18. For once, i’d love that somebody made a truly realistic historical accurate movie about the ninjas in pre-Meji restauration Japan, and present the ninjas as they were and not as in myth version so common in fiction . It would be the HEAT or THIEF of ninja movies. Just because movies play realistic do not make them any less fun. In fact, i think it improves the fun factor tremendously.

  19. asimovlives, the movie is called THE LAST AVATAR

  20. It’s all true, everything Vern & Mr. Majestyk says here. Too good to be true, but somehow true nonetheless.

    MIAMI CONNECTION cures cancer.

    MIAMI CONNECTION teaches Scrooge to love the poor.

    MIAMI CONNECTION informed Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

    Dragon Sound will herald the Rapture, and Zombie Angel Jeezus will be in the crowd, using the burning souls of sinners as a makeshift lighter, hoisting the flame above His godly hair in support of one more encore, one more drum solo in an extended version of “Tae Kwan Do Family.”

    MIAMI CONNECTION and Mouth are
    Friends forever,
    we’ll be together.
    We’re on top cuz we play to wi-in.
    Friends for eternity,
    Loyalty, honesty,
    Stay together through thick and thi-in.

  21. Mouth, remind me to email you the mp3 I made of “Taekwondo Family” when I get home. Next time you get airlifted somewhere, make sure you blast it in the chopper like Little Richard in PREDATOR.

  22. The world is discovering MIAMI CONNECTION, and it’s playing at the goddamn Lincoln Center, same place I saw TO ROME WITH LOVE. I went to NY on the wrong weekend.

    http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/reviews/nyaff-2012-review-miami-connection-rhunt.php

  23. If you follow the link it should take you to the Drafthouse films page, and you will be greeted with an offer to download 2 free songs from MIAMI CONNECTION when you sign up for their news letter.

    http://labs.topspin.net/downloadanywhere/confirm.php?sessionid=9a136b74a7d70f52302d1d9e6b1052f9&fb=1

  24. Current schedule for LA’s Cinefamily has this playing August 24 with Y.K. Kim in attendance. Awww yeah.

  25. I got a Miami Connection hangover I don’t want to get over. This should be experienced, and if it sneaks into town for a one-shot show, rearrange your life to check it out. Don’t want to spoil stuff; believe that there were bits that might slip by if there’s not a like-minded hyped-up crowd (who also make the can’t-miss moments all the better.) As far as ironically enjoyed movies go, it’s not the mindbending, who-could-have-thought-this-would-work kind of thing like, say, Birdemic; it’s more like Samurai Cop, where a lot of trendy 80s elements are tackled with more enthusiasm than finesse. For all the low-budget limitations, it’s actually fairly competent, technically. And Grandmaster Kim does have the moves.

    The Grandmaster was there last night, complete with basking entourage. Students from a local dojo (one of his, no doubt) tore the roof off with a pre-show lite-funk dance/aerobic/break stuff routine. The disciples also canvassed for contact information for a raffle that didn’t happen at the screening (hmmm….) Kim himself did some crazy splits and waves after shrugging that drama and romance aren’t the film’s strong points. Action, music, and respect for friendship, though? Check and double-check. Post-show he and a castmember/cowriter bagged a Q&A in exchange for personal greetings on the street out front. I split before he showed; would love to know how sales pitchy it got.

  26. MY FATHER! I FOUND MY FATHER!

  27. The DVD and Blu-ray will be released December 11 according to Amazon where both are up for pre-order.

  28. I finally got to see this and it changed my life. One day Dragon Sound will be celebrated for driving the ninjas out of Miami similar to the way Saint Patrick is celebrated for driving the snakes out of Ireland. (SPOILERS) I love how what was meant to be a good natured movie about friendship and the power of Tae Kwon Do turns into a brutal blood bath in the finale. Also, on the special features for the Blu Ray it has an alternate/original ending where Jim dies before ever getting to meet his long lost father.

  29. Pre-ordered my copy and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack ever since. One more day until it goes live!

  30. Finally caught this at the movies last night. Definitely up there with Samurai Cop.

    My favourite moment was probably “Oh… ninjas“, but the thing that elevated the movie to a work of art was the subplot about Jimmy’s dad. Great stuff.

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