For some people November is Movember. For others it’s NaNoWriMo. For no reason whatsoever, here at Psycho Drive-In, November is for Ninjas. Miami Connection is the brainchild of one man: Y.K. Kim. Kim wrote, produced and starred in the film despite having no previous experience whatsoever in the film industry. Or in writing screenplays. Or in acting. For the most part, every person involved in the film was an amateur. And all of these things are entirely apparent upon viewing the film. They are also what make Miami Connection a singular experience. Before discussing Miami Connection further, it’s important to understand a few things about the film’s origin. Filmed and released in 1987 to only a handful of theaters in Orlando, Florida, Miami Connection did not initially find its audience and was unable to parlay into wider distribution. The film essentially fell through the cracks of pop culture and was lost to the world for the better part of 30 years. It maintained a certain level of cult status throughout that time before coming to the attention of the wonderful folks at Alamo Drafthouse, that bastion of remarkable and often obscure cinema. A print of the film was secured in 2009, and following screenings, a re-release of the film to select screens was negotiated. This led to a home video release on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2011 via Drafthouse Films. Delivered wholly into the current Age of Irony, it’s exactly those elements that led to the film’s failure in 1987 that are cause for rejoicing today. It’s a time-capsule of 80’s culture; a collision of biker gangs, ninjas, rock music and Miami cocaine culture. The unintentional awkwardness of the scripting and the amateur nature of the performances make up the other half of the fun, with some legitimate martial arts action and a truly amazing soundtrack featuring original tunes rounding things out. It’s simply impossible to watch this film without a smile on your face. Miami Connection opens with a coke deal gone bad. Team White Panama Hats and Team Pastel Sport Coats are handily dispatched by a gang of ninjas employing shuriken, katanas and plenty of good old-fashioned roundhouse kicks. There’s some rudimentary gore here, enough to whet the palette and a teaser for what is to come in the film’s finale. Having dispatched the drug dealers, we cut to the ninja clan presenting their leader, Yushita with the stolen drugs. Yushita is pissed that they managed to only snag the drugs and somehow let the money go, but he quickly recovers and the entire ninja gang packs up to head to Orlando to unload the coke. It’s at this point that we realize these aren’t just ninjas, they are biker ninjas, as they roll out en masse. This is also the point in the film where we are introduced to the film’s protagonists, the band Dragon Sound. They take to the stage of an Orlando night club in an explosion of riffs and synth, belting out the track “Escape From Miami” as scenes of the band performing are inter-cut with footage of the biker ninjas arriving in Orlando and meeting up with a fellow gang. In case you missed the subtext, the song’s lyrics are a loose narration of the events “Bikers by day, ninjas by night, steal your cocaine and even your life….” Yushita greets Jeff, the leader of the Orlando gang, and the two discuss how awesome the coke they have is and how they are going to make a lot of money in Orlando. As they chat, they enter the night club at which Dragon Sound is playing, bringing everyone into the same room. Jeff is quite upset to learn that his sister Jane is hanging out with Dragon Sound, performing with them. Jeff and Jane have a pretty disturbing relationship for a brother and sister, it feels much more like a jealous boyfriend stalking his ex as we see in a subsequent scene It begins with Jane in class, then meeting up with her boyfriend and fellow Dragon Sound member John. They walk through campus, providing us with some of the most awkward exposition ever. Here’s an excerpt: John: So, Jane, I’ve been wondering, about your famiIy. Do you have any famiIy or anything? I haven’t met anybody yet or? Jane: WeII, I have a brother as a matter of fact. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be going to this nice school and staying in the nice dorm I’m staying in. John: That’s really nice of him. Jane: WeII, except for one thing. I don’t reaIIy Iike him. John: What? You don’t Iike your own brother? Why? Jane: WeII, I can’t reaIIy expIain it, I just don’t Iike him. Sooooooo, yeah. That’s what we’re dealing with here, dialogue-wise. At this point Jeff arrives to pick Jane up from school, bringing three cars and two truckloads full of goons with him. Not surprisingly, Jeff and John don’t hit it off too well and Jeff hauls off and decks John at the mere suggestion that he is a friend of his sister. Just before things erupt into a violent gang beatdown for John, the rest of Dragon Sound runs up to intervene. There is a tense standoff before the two groups go their separate ways. It seems like Dragon Sound is stepping on everyone’s toes. Not only does Jeff’s gang want to kill them but the band that used to play the club that Dragon Sound inadvertently pushed out is also out for blood. Good thing the Dragon Sound boys are all masters of Tae Kwon Do! Not only do they all go to college together and play in a band together, but they also live together and train together in the martial arts. A lot of the film’s core is based around the themes of friendship and family, sticking together. There is a real sincerity here, and in the idea that through the martial arts everyone can be united. But, since this is a movie filled with evil cocaine biker ninjas, eventually those martial arts will need to be put to use for self-defense. For everything that Y.K. Kim lacks in acting ability and in overcoming the language barrier, he excels at kicking ass. I’m fairly confident that most of his stunts in the film are full-contact and that the actors he is up against took some very real hits. While Kim is the standout, the film goes to great lengths to illustrate that Dragon Sound as a whole is a force to be reckoned with. This is not always as effective as it is in the fight scenes, a slo-mo sparring sequence between Kim and two other members comes across less like the graceful Tae Kwon Do ballet intended and more like the worst middle school slow dance in history, replete with Kim shoving almost his entire fist into his sparring partner’s mouth. As the plot escalates, the disgruntled band, Jeff’s pack of redneck gang members and the biker ninjas all coalesce in their efforts to put an end to Dragon Sound. The film is equal part fights scenes and filler, but let’s not be too dismissive of that filler, especially when concerning the amazing musical performances. The film’s lead tracks “Against The Ninja” and “Friends” are absolute stunners, representing the very best of 80’s shredding synth rock. Both are featured in full-length music video sequences within the film and are a large part of the film’s enduring legacy. Screenings of the film have come to involve pre- and post- viewing karaoke participation from audience members. The ninja and martial arts-centric themes of the songs on the soundtrack make them truly unique and I dare you to not find yourself coming back for further listening after seeing the film. Another unspoken element of the film’s appeal is the regional casting and setting. Most of the extras and many of the gang members are straight-up redneck Florida crackers who spend lots of time hamming it up for the camera. These guys are so goofy in appearance and behavior that they unintentionally steal the show. Since this is Florida, we are also treated to shots of the Miami city-scape and the ubiquitous beach scene involving the finest in late-80’s bikini and beach fashion. The most bewildering of the film’s scenes, and that is really saying something here, takes place as a montage at an actual biker rally. The ninja leader Yushita and Jeff rub elbows with some authentic dirty bikers and their old ladies, resulting in the requisite 80’s titty-flashing scenes. Miami Connection is essentially a series of loose threads strung together with fight sequences, bookended by scenes of absolute ninja mayhem at the film’s beginning and end. There is a subplot involving one of the band members searching for his estranged father (to which another character replies “I didn’t know you had a father.”) that results in some cringe-worthy dramatic moments and serves to propel things towards a dramatic resolution. I don’t want to reveal too much about how things shake out, but let’s take a moment to appreciate the final fight sequence. Taking place in what is clearly a city park, swarms of ninjas attack our heroes and a bloody battle ensues. After a long pause in scenes of extreme gore and violence, the film picks right back up with slashes, blood geysers and decapitation. The final scenes are awash in fake blood and drama, with the protagonists featured in several scenes simply screaming open-mouthed while staring directly into the camera covered in blood. It’s the sort of batshit-crazy overuse of an action movie trope that makes this film something remarkable. The ending of the film is so heavy-handed that it virtually karate-chops through the cinderblock of the mind. While it’s hard to take the film without heavy doses of irony, I don’t think that’s any reason to dismiss it. The sincerity with which it was produced allows for a genuine appreciation of its disparate parts, even if the total package is an exercise in the ridiculous. It’s a no-brainer that Miami Connection recently received the Rifftrax treatment, and honestly there is no better way to appreciate this film than hanging out with some friends and appreciating absurd fun of it all. Crank up the Dragon Sound and break out your best roundhouse kick, Miami Connection is here to rock your world. See larger image Miami Connection (+ Digital Copy) [Blu-ray] Includes SRM Free Digital Download 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 (kung-fu 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!!! New From: $74.95 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.