Korean martial artist Y.K. Kim is responsible for Miami Connection, a 1987 action picture that is so defiant in its earnestness that it’s hard to resist. Kim directs this Z-movie along with Richard Park. Both contributed to the story, while Joseph Diamond is credited with the screenplay.
For Kim, the desire to construct a good taekwondo flick is the driving force. And there is a great deal of good taekwondo in Miami Connection, but there’s also a great deal of what makes American cinema sparkle. There’s a rock band, a group of well-behaved and in-shape university students, a pile of drug-dealing ne’er-do-wells, some ass-kicking, and a sloppy call for world peace.
In Miami, ninjas are getting involved in the drug trade. Yashito (Siyung Jo) and his second-in-command Jeff (William Ergle) are holding it down, but Jeff is concerned about the relationship his sister Jane (Kathie Collier) is having with John (Vincent Hirsch). See, John is a member of the Dragon Sound band. They’re a group of taekwondo experts that just so happen to rock and roll on weekends.
Other members of Dragon Sound, like Mark (Kim) and Jim (Maurice Smith), contend with university life and all the drama that comes with it. They are all orphans, but Jim’s father comes knocking and provides a plot wrinkle. Dragon Sound also has to deal with rivals and Tom (Angelo Janotti) gets kidnapped, leading to a showdown between the ninjas and the band.
From the opening scramble between a group of ninjas and a gang of drug dealers, it’s clear that Miami Connection is set to take itself very seriously. This makes many of its delights unintentional, which certainly seems to erode the sometimes-floated argument that Kim was intending some form of tight satire.
It’s one thing to watch a film of this sort as an artifact, one brimming with tacky synth rock and wild ninja action. It’s another thing altogether to attempt to appraise it as a genuine movie, which is no doubt the spirit of its intent. Kim, ingenuously or desperately, wants Miami Connection to work as the ultimate kick-ass martial arts flick.
His keenness floats through to the actors, who are often so delighted to be in the shot that they talk over one another. The cinematographer, Argentina’s Maximo Munzi, shoots with a chaotic sensibility. And the score by John McCallum soaks over everything, imposing its will on the “romantic” scenes and driving the fight sequences to near death.
That doesn’t even cover illustrious musical numbers like “Friends Forever,” which may or may not have inspired Zack Attack, or the snap-happy taekwondo that blends into some bloody sword action for the emotional final showdown. Or the strange, sudden, jerky cuts.
Miami Connection is fun to watch, but it’s more an exercise of the folly of its parts rather than the worth of its whole. Like Godfrey Ho’s Ninja Terminator and other “bad classics,” Kim’s picture bolsters itself with some convincing martial arts but falls apart when not playing to its strength.
But the breakdown in how “good” movies work is amusing, with Dragon Sound trading on enthusiastic wish fulfillment. Kim deserves credit for laying his cards on the table, even if the final message of world peace runs in just a teensy-weensy bit of contrast to the film’s frequent application of violence as the best solution to that pesky coke-slinging ninja problem.