Let’s play a game. Imagine yourself as a financier, looking to make your big break into the movie business. One day, a person walks into your office claiming to have the best idea for your next project. You sit back and listen intently. With a straight face, this person pitches a story involving greasy bikers, pop rock bands, and the dangerous narcotics trade in Florida. There’s also a love story between members of two opposing groups, a little bit like West Side Story, if you will. It’s a story about love, peace, and finding happiness in the world and balance in one’s life. But just in case that doesn’t suit your tastes, there’s also action, violence, decapitations, and gratuitous nudity. And to top it all off: everyone involved is a stone-cold ninja, ready to chop off anyone’s head without the slightest bit of remorse!
Is this the type of movie you’d be willing to put your hard-earned cash into making? If your answer is no, then stop reading now and walk away; there’s nothing here for you. If your answer is yes, then you’ll be pleased to know that Miami Connection (1987) has all this, plus a ton more. Co-directed, co-written, and starring martial arts expert/motivational speaker Y.K. Kim, this is a no-holds-barred exercise in camp to the highest degree. A hidden cult/B-movie from the eighties, this is getting a limited re-release in theaters. If you’re the type to enjoy schlocky, cheesy trash, then you’ll have a good time. It has everything you can ask for in a good bad movie: terrible acting, nonsensical plotting, out-of-sync dubbing, and flashy style/music that can only have come from that magical decade. This is the perfect movie to watch with friends and make fun of. When one of its highlights involves a ninja shooting fire out of his hands, you get a clear idea what you’re in for.
I’ll try to describe the plot as best I can. In Florida, a group of motorcycle-riding ninjas controls the drug market through a fierce use of intimidation and violence. At the same time, the successful rock band Dragon Sound has been filling up clubs with their synthesized beats and matching wardrobes. Interestingly enough, Dragon Sound is also made up of ninjas (I guess being a ninja was a high-demand occupation back then). These two groups have nothing to do with each other, but when Dragon Sound starts playing in clubs the motorcycle ninjas frequent, and when band member Jack (Joseph Diamand) starts dating Jane (Kathy Collier), the sister of a motorcycle ninja, things get heated to a fever pitch. Violence breaks out, and Dragon Sound—led by guitarist Mark (Y.K. Kim)—takes it upon themselves to battle the motorcycle ninjas and shatter their criminal operation once and for all.
I laughed a lot while watching this. It felt as though Kim and his partners threw everything they could think of into the pot. There’s hand-to-hand combat, gunfights, and even musical scenes tossed in—none all that memorable, but each entertaining, regardless. At one point, we find ourselves at school watching Jack and Jane begin their romance, and then one moment later we see leather-clad bikers flashing their private parts for no logical reason. You have to give them credit; where the plot goes is truly unpredictable. This will not win any critical awards. The acting was flat and lifeless, the dialogue repetitive, and the editing was jagged and often incoherent. But through it all, there is a level of fun to be had. If someone asked you to be in a movie where you could wield a samurai sword, shoot guns, play music, and ride motorcycles dressed as a ninja, would you turn it down? I admired how everyone jumped into their respective roles head first and with full conviction. They may have known they were making something terrible, but at least it wasn’t from a lack of trying. Their energy is seen mostly through the numerous fights scenes. Yes, they’re badly staged and unconvincing, yet you can tell they were having a lot of fun.
My favorite scenes of Miami Connection star actor Maurice Smith as Dragon Sound member Jim. Jim has two occasions where he expresses the bottled-up feelings he has for his absent father. The first requires him to weep. While Smith is clearly not an experienced actor, he really goes for it: crying, sniveling, and trying his darnedest to push the words out. The scene goes for a long duration, and it only gets funnier the longer it lasts. The second is when he finally receives some good news in the mail. Jim is so overcome with joy that he literally squeals like a little kid. Those right there are the emotional apexes, and instead of being poignant, they’re hilarious. What else can you say about a movie like this? So many bad films are made each year, sometimes we have to step back and appreciate the ones that swing for the fences.
Quality of Acting/Writing/Directing: D
Entertainment Value: B+