- Movie: Miami Connection
- Director: Richard Park
- Starring: Y.K. Kim, Vincent Hirsch, William Ergle
- Rotten Tomato Rating: 73%
A Little Context
Bruce Lee. Jackie Chan. Jet Li. Young Kun Kim.
“Miami Connection” was supposed to be the movie that made Y.K. Kim an action star. As you can imagine, things didn’t quite work out that way. Korean-born Kim moved to Orlando, FL in the late 70’s to open a taekwondo school. It wasn’t long before Kim gained some notoriety in the area by teaching and writing. In the mid 80s, film director Richard Park saw Kim on a talk show promoting a book Kim had written about taekwondo. Park convinced Kim to make a film showcasing his talents. “Miami Connection” was born.
Take a look at this trailer from the Drafthouse re-release:
To put it lightly, this movie was not received well at the time and ended it’s original theatrical run after only three weeks. Costing Kim over a million dollars of his own money, the movie was a commercial failure. For the next 20 years, the film would only be seen by hardcore film collectors. In 2009, an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema programmer made a random blind buy of a 35mm “Miami Connection” on Ebay. Random showings at the cinema led to word of mouth, the audience grew enough to warrant a small re-release. Now those of us that tragically missed it the first time around (although I would have been a 4-year-old) get a second chance.
I will start off by saying that out of all of the bad movies I’ve seen this is my absolute favorite. As I said before in the Captain America (1990) review, bad movies tend to have parts that are entertainingly bad, and parts that are just bad. You have to have enough of the good kind of bad for it to be a fun bad movie. “Miami Connection” is all the good kind of bad. The look of the film, the music, the choreography, the acting–it’s all an ironic kind of fantastic that just kind of becomes fantastic.
The film opens on a cocaine deal–duh, it’s Miami in the 80’s. Shockingly, things don’t go as smoothly as you’d hope. The coke is stolen by a group of motorcycle-riding ninjas. If the opening somehow doesn’t sell you, the story then moves to the good guys–taekwondo students who are in a band called Dragon Sound.
I really don’t think I should have to explain any more, but I don’t want this article to be too short so I’ll just talk about my favorite things:
The fighting in this movie is all over the place. Y.K. Kim has legitimate martial arts ability, the only problem is that the rest of the people in the movie run the gamut from not bad to complete punching bag. It’s clear that Kim knows what he’s doing, but even fight scenes involving him come across as awkward. He sometimes seems too fast and too coordinated, making a fight look sloppy simply because he has to make up for his opponents lack of skill. In a way though, the result is almost better than just a badly choreographed fight.
There is no point in talking about the acting itself, but I will say that the casting is absolutely fantastic. It’s like they had three metrics: they needed to be fit, they needed to at least be able to somewhat memorize lines, and they needed to be cheap (many of them were Kim’s students). Nailed it.
Finally, the music. One of the aspects that really separates this movie from the rest are the original tracks. If there is one thing that would make your taewondo-using protagonists more badass, it’s putting them into a rock band. While a lesser movie might have settled for covers, “Miami Connection” went all out. The heroes of the film comprise the locally-popular group Dragon Sound, whose hits include “Against the Ninja” and “Friends.” And just like the movie, you’ll love them ironically, then you’ll just love them.
But Can I Drink To It?
Oh my God, yes. This movie is hilarious sober, so you know it’ll be amazing drunk.
Sleeveless t-shirts – DRINK for 3 seconds!
Any time you can’t quite make out what Y.K. Kim just said – DRINK for 5 seconds!
Guitar solos – DRINK for as long as it’s occurring!
A head comes off – DRINK/CHUG a full beer!
Here is the edition I watched and where you can find it: Miami Connection blu-ray from Drafthouse – $20.
Additional listening: The entire Dragon Sound catalog (two songs) can be purchased on along with the film.
Post by: Tyler P.
Tyler Phillippi is a former improviser and musician. Now, he mainly focuses on getting through his Netflix queue. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org