Miami Connection

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A Travis Bickle get-up, helmet hair and shark tooth earring: I mean business

KISS wowed audiences with kabuki-style makeup and the declaration, “you wanted the best, you got the best.” The house band, Dragon Sound in the 80s revival hit Miami Connection, wow nobody, wear taekwondo gis on stage and declare “we’re on top ’cause we play to win!”

Never has a film been built on a foundation this flimsy: a crummy band embittered by being replaced by Dragon Sound in an awful Orlando nightclub, decide to war it out with them by enlisting the help of a gang. This film is definitely not up to code (CHECK OUT OUR DISCUSSION OF MIAMI CONNECTION ON OUR PODCAST).

We’d be bitter too if our band was replaced by one that had martial arts demonstrations during their songs that included the sensei grabbing his students’ noses between his toes with high kicks.

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Sample lyrics: “Friends for eternity, loyalty, honesty/We stick together through thick and thin”.

Dragon Sound’s hit Against the Ninja features the inimitable pre-chorus shout out: “Tae-kwon, tae-kwon, tae-kwon do!” You can definitely say these guys love their taekwondo and that they take a strong stand against…ninjas.

Did we mention they’re also orphans who all live together? And that there’s a convoluted paternal reunification subplot involving a shopping run for a shirt and tie? An oversight.

Did we mention that the reason these minstrels sing about Korean martial arts is that they’re all martial arts students? No?

And we never pointed out that they mix the guitar heroics of Van Halen with the hair of Hall & Oates and the general awfulness of Miami Sound Machine.

A member of the band, a martial arts Michael Phelps|Eli Manning composite, John, is dating a fellow band member and University of Central Florida student, Jane, whose overly protective brother also co-runs a ruthless gang. The gangster wears a thick hairpiece and military fatigues, two things you could say detract from his performance.

But luckily there are other distractions, namely a plot hole so large you could drive a tour van right through it: the nightclub could have had the warring bands play on different nights, especially given Dragon Sound were in the midst of booking an international tour anyway, to spread taekwondo awareness (!) to the ethnic ancestral homelands of their deceased parents (!!). And no, we did not make that up. And the rival band, with the gang’s help, kidnapping the lead singer for no apparent reason? Well, you can’t make that up either.

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The incomparable Angelo Janotti as lead singer Tom

There are spectacular street brawls with nary a cop or a gun in sight, the band uses their new-found notoriety to troll the beaches for ladies (“they don’t make buns like those down at the bakery” and “oh baby I need you!) and  John gets sucker-punched despite being a grade-A ass beater, skill-wise.

There are shocking cuts and a bizarre and seemingly improvised script  (an example: you rarely hear someone say “you don’t scare me!” and have it followed by “goodbye!” and everyone going their merry way rather than brawling). There are also lengthy periods in which the dialogue is drowned out by ambient noise.

If the acting doesn’t reach the heights of the reverse round-house kicking it’s no surprise: Most of the cast were not actors, but rather students of Y.K. Kim, the movie’s barely comprehensible co-star, who owned a chain of taekwondo studios in Florida and is clearly using the film as a vehicle to shill for his martial art.

Kim is quoted on CNN: “When I finished the movie, I showed it to hundreds of different studios and distribution companies. They all said, ‘This is trash. Don’t waste your time.'” Luckily for all concerned, it DID find a distributor as Miami Connection is a total gem.

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Kim plays Mark, a guy who runs a dojo, plays bass and fights ninjas to the death.

If that wasn’t enough to convince, there are also ninjas. Because when you think central Florida you the first thing that springs to mind is ninjas and sword-fighting.

Spoiler alert: before the closing credits, the message: “the elimination of violence is the key to creating world peace”, and they might as well have added…so please disregard the preceding 85 minutes of lead pipe fights, decapitations, sword gashes, knifings, beatings, etc.

**** (out of 5)

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