One day taking place sometime ago; fellow esteemed CotBF writer Alex emailed me a trailer for a midnight released film that he wanted us desperately to attend. After considering the trailer to be fantastic (I usually avoid watching trailers because of the revealing-of-the-best-parts mentality that modern trailers have, but this was an exception), we watched 1987’s Miami Connection, and afterwards Alex and I left with different reactions. Thus Alex and I decided to pre-order the new release when it came out, sit down with my father (whose role will become more apparent later) and write about our shared experiences.
Alex Miami Connection is directed by Richard Park and produced by Y.K. Kim, with both taking part of the writing; Y.K. Kim also stars as one of the main characters, Mark, in the film. Originally released in eight theaters it has not been seen since until late 2012. Drafthouse restored and re-released it into theaters and then later made it available for purchase on multiple platforms, including a special edition VHS for “authentic viewing”. Founded in Austin in 1997 Drafthouse is mainly a small theater chain in Texas.
In the dead of night on the docks of Florida, a cocaine trade is going down with thuggish men brandishing large guns (as my father commented, some were using Mach-10s), standing around a table with only a box of cocaine placed atop. Rustling in the treetops and bushes ninja take up position to kill the thugs and steal the cocaine. The ninjas strike; easily overpowering the thugs and making off with their precious cocaine. The next day in an elaborate Japanese style house in the Florida forests, a ninja named Yashito (who you can tell is the master ninja because he is dressed in white instead of black) ridicules his adjacent students for only bringing back the cocaine, but leaving money behind. Yashito decides to ride off on his American motorcycle to meet with his business partner and close-friend Jeff at a night club. Once there, Yashito notices that the house band, (our future heroes) Dragon Sound, have Jeff’s Sister Jane as lead vocalist, something that Jeff is completely against.
The day after playing their hit song “Friends” at the night club, Dragon Sound band mates and University of Central Florida students Mark, John, Tom, Jim, and Jack are living the happy life after class. Brought together by their love of music, the Tae-Kwon-Do training they practice with Korea born Mark, and the fact that they are all orphans, the members of Dragon Sound seem to have everything going for them; especially John, who is currently dating their sixth band member Jane. But as to be expected, happiness cannot last when Jeff learns that his cherished sister, whose tuition he personally pays for, is dating this schmuck John. Starting with the moment Jeff socks John in the University parking lot, the members of Dragon Sound are going to have to fight not only the local Miami drug trade with their Tae-Kwon-Do skills, but the Miami ninja as well.
In the same vein as how I take the Science Fiction film Star Crash way too seriously, so do I take Miami Connection as serious business. At times, I hate this modern viewing mentality that everything has to be done “ironically” or “tongues always have to be inside cheeks”. Miami Connection features aspects like ninja on motorcycles, overly dramatic and thickly layered friendships among men, and perceived dialog that if not believed to be delivered seriously would just sound like the set up to a punch line. But this is not a self-aware film to me, for it is far too genuine and heartfelt (this is demonstrated by the over familiarity the members of Dragon Sound have towards each other) to be winking at the camera or break the fourth-wall. Miami Connection takes everything it does seriously like a dorky kid coming up with a fictitious scenario in their backyard, where they just want to have fun.
Alex Miami Connection is made to be a love letter to TaeKwonDo that Y.K. Kim incorporates into the film. At one point during the film Mark, Jack, and Jim talk about how they have gained a family through TaeKwonDo and even talk about taking a world tour with their band to promote and spread what they have learned. Here at Children of the Blazing Fist, none of the staff have taken any form of martial arts classes in any real capacity. Lucky for us Franklin Raines’ dad is actually a second degree black belt in TaeKwonDo; so while watching Miami Connection we got real insight into the accuracy of TaeKwonDo. During a training montage where Mark, Jack, and Jim are practicing their TaeKwonDo, the elder Mr. Raines input that most of the moves shown were fairly basic and that long ago he could actually perform the same techniques with ease. That seems to be a running occurrence within the film, basic to intermediate moves are shown but nothing too advanced is ever displayed.
Pros: I wish I had more room to mention the soundtrack, whose combination of the rock of real band Dragon Sound and Lloyd Richards, as well as excellent synthesizer tracks by Jon McCallum, turn Miami Connection into my own personal Rocky Horror Picture Show where I cannot stop myself from singing along.
Alex You can never really tell how a film will be based only on the trailer; the same goes for Miami Connection. What I first saw was a fun film about friends, music, and fighting for what is right. After actually seeing Miami Connection all the way through what I got was what I expected but to the nth degree. From the music, to the fighting, and the characters displayed, they all melded together well. The fighting is choreographed nicely and gets better when all of the members of Dragon Sound fight together, such as in the beginning of the film.
Cons: The editing, especially in the transitions which are at times distractingly jumpy, make for both various continuity errors that are at times fun to point out, but still bothersome to view. Now the rerelease has a nice transfer, and I do not know enough about film restoration to fully comment on this, but the squiggly lines of film imperfections are still present.
Alex One of the problems I have with Miami Connection is the jumpy scene transitions; suddenly it just cuts to a totally different location without any setup. After Dragon Sound plays for the first time and the song ends, the film cuts to the band that got fired just sitting in a car. It can be a little disruptive when viewing and almost takes you out of the film.
Miami Connection’s revival has been spearheaded by Drafthouse Films, to which I consider Miami Connection to be a personal feather in their film caps. One of the reasons that I brought my father in to watch Miami Connection with us came from my childhood growing up watching my dad watch 70’s and 80’s action/martial arts films on T.V., so I felt it appropriate to bring him in on this one. I take Miami Connection way to seriously, but that does not mean it cannot be seen as a fun and at times heartfelt story of friendship among band mates that have more going into it then that lemonade pink poster would have you believe.
Alex Miami Connection has many things going for it; music, story, action and much more blended together to make it one of my new favorite films. With very little flaws I highly recommend viewing it with as many people as possible. You can get together and everyone can find something to love in this lost gem.