Retro Review – ‘Miami Connection’
Let’s face it those of us who love movies have a special place in our hearts for the big dumb action movies of the 80’s and 90’s. I don’t mean movies like; Predator or First Blood or classics of the genre like that. You know the ones I am talking about; there’s usually crime lords, drug deals gone bad, tough heroes, faceless henchman, and the entire cast spent their time learning martial arts rather than acting. Imagine my joy when I found a single film which was thought lost for decades, featuring everything I love about the big dumb action movies of a bygone era. Y.K. Kim pulls a Tommy Wiseau and writes, produces, directs, and stars in this testosterone filled flick. Originally released in 1987 to empty theaters (all 8 screens in played in) and terrible reviews, but in 2012 it was rediscovered by a theater in Texas and given new life.
Set in Orlando (hence the title MIAMI Connection) the Japanese drug lord Yashito and his gang of ninjas steal a drug shipment. Yashito is allied with his (very American) brother Jeff who aids him in his criminal enterprises. Elsewhere in Orlando a group of (very grown) college students have forged a brotherly bond from living together, training in Taekwondo together, and playing together in a rock band called Dragon Sound. Y.K. Kim plays Mark, the leader and older brother figure of the group who keeps them in line and is looked up to by the rest of the band. When their bassist, John, dates Jeff’s sister Jane (who is strangely never acknowledged as Yashito’s sister) the path of Dragon Sound crosses with the criminal elements of Yashito and his brother. In a move which I’m sure seemed smart at the time Jeff recruits Dragon Sound’s rival band to help him take care of the good guys. Needless to say they fail and Jeff ends up dead, bringing the ire of Yashito and his ninja crew on Dragon Sound. The ninjas prove to be a difficult challenge for the guys, and their friend Jim even ends up critically injured battling them. Dragon Sound does not take this lying down and strike back against the drug dealing ninja clan. We in the audience are treated to a happy ending as the bad guys are defeated, Jane can date John, and while hospitalized Jim reunites with his long lost father (played by an actor the same age he is but with white powder in his hair to appear older).
It is hard to believe an action movie with; motorcycles, rock bands, bikini-clad women, gratuitous violence, martial arts, long lost fathers, cocaine, and ninjas could have flopped upon its initial release, but sadly that’s what happened to the Miami Connection. For years following this movie’s very brief run Y.K. Kim always saw its failure as a mark of shame. Many years later when the flick was rediscovered it and permission was requested to host screenings of Miami Connections, Kim thought it was a prank. It seems a new generation of filmgoers has fallen in love with this movie in a way audiences of the time were unable to.
Say will you will about Miami Connection but it is impossible to call it boring. Y.K. Kim gives moviegoers an action-packed popcorn flick which throws everything at the screen. It is far from quality filmmaking but audiences are given an absolute clinic on how to make a damn entertaining flick. Even through the bombast, there is an obvious sincerity which can be picked up on by fans endearing the flick to people in a weird way. One gets the feeling that the cast and crew were pouring their hearts into this endeavor. Miami Connection is the kind of movie lovers of old school action flicks crave watching and even those who are not action fans will still get a great sense of enjoyment out of it. With so much packed into this flick, you would not be far off considering Miami Connection to be the Citizen Kane of B-grade 80’s popcorn action flicks. It sets the entertainment bar high and if you get a chance to catch a screening of this flick when it rolls into your area, be sure to take advantage of it.