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Film / Miami Connection

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Friends through eternity
Loyalty and honesty
We'll stand together
Through thick or thin
Friends forever
We'll be together
We're on top
'Cause we play to win
Dragon Sound, "Friends"

Miami Connection is a martial arts film produced in 1987. It was the brainchild of director Richard Park and writer/producer/star Grandmaster Y.K. Kim (a Korean taekwondo expert and motivational speaker), who just wanted to make "a good film about Taekwondo" featuring authentic martial arts. Described by critics as a "cocaine-war- rock-ninja- motorcycle-gang film, with aspirations of being an action-adventure musical", Miami Connection was savaged during its initial run but enjoyed success as a cult film when it was restored and re-released in 2012 by Drafthouse Films.

In the year 1987, a shadowy band of ninja bikers led by the mysterious White Ninja has cornered the central Florida cocaine trade by ruthlessly eliminating their rivals. When Jeff, a thuggish gang leader and associate of the White Ninja, discovers his sister is dating the lead bassist of hit Taekwondo black-belt rock-band Dragon Sound, he teams up with the band's jealous rivals to destroy them. But Dragon Sound won't give in to evil and fight back, setting up an inevitable martial arts showdown with the White Ninja and the entire Miami Connection.

The official re-release trailer cut by Hobo with a Shotgun director Jason Eisener can be seen here.

On October 1, 2015, RiffTrax riffed the film live. The Cinema Snob has also reviewed it.

In 2022, a retrospective documentary, Resurrecting the Dragon: Looking Back at Miami Connection, was created for the Vinegar Syndrome 4K / BluRay release, featuring interviews with the cast and crew about the movie's legacy.

This movie contains examples of:

  • '80s Hair: Virtually everyone. Aesthetically, this film is almost a perfect time capsule from 1987.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Those ninja swords are insane. Witness as one of the ninjas gets his head cut off at the neck with one strike and another gets slashed on his face that looks like clay. Also, one of the cocaine dealers in the beginning of the movie gets his arm cut off with one strike.
  • Avenging the Villain: After Jeff dies, Hashito the white ninja has a flashback of him and Jeff together and then goes out to kill the members of Dragon Sound.
  • Badass Crew: Dragon Sound, a band that also knows taekwondo and manages to hold its own when vastly outnumbered in street fights.
  • Bad Boss: The White Ninja, who kills those who fail him.
  • Beard of Evil: Jeff sports a very thick beard.
  • Big Bad: The White Ninja, attempted drug lord of Miami.
  • Brick Break: Hashito demonstrates his martial arts prowess with a feat of brick-breaking. Unfortunately the actor only manages to break about 25% of the bricks in the stack.
  • Carpet of Virility: Tom shows off his hairy chest in just about every scene.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Most of the street toughs in the film carry a staff or club, many of them with spikes.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Mark's taekwondo skills as demonstrated to his friends turn out to be useful when he fights the White Ninja.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Averted at the start of the film. Played straight during the climax.
  • Creator Cameo: Richard Park, the film's director, has a small role as Mark's uncle Song.
  • Deep South: A small but noticeable share of the mooks our heroes face off against are stereotypical Deep South "redneck" types, often to the point of surreal caricature.
  • Disney Villain Death: How Jeff dies, sparing Mark the trouble.
  • Distressed Dude: Tom gets captured by Jeff's gang in order to lure out the rest of Dragon Sound.
  • Disproportionate Retribution
    • The old band threatens to run Dragon Sound out of town simply because they got replaced by them at their usual venue.
    • Jane's brother Jeff and his gang wants to take out Mark and his friends because Jane was dating John.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Suggested early on to be the ultimate moral of the film, but the plot drifts away somewhat.
  • Dull Surprise: "Oh, ninjas."
  • Easily Forgiven: When John tries to tell Jane about having to kill her brother, she literally talks over him about how she understands what happened.
  • Engrish: Mark suffers from a serious condition of this, making almost all his lines very hard to understand.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: A ninja tells this to his evil ninja boss almost verbatim. It's that same evil ninja boss who finalizes the situation, by cutting off the whiner's head.
  • Fake Shemp: In the reshot version of the climactic scene, the White Ninja is played by William Eagle (Jeff), as the original actor was no longer available.
  • Fan Disservice: At the motorcycle ralley, we get some random shots of rough-looking biker chicks flashing the camera and getting groped by bikers, and then a male biker moons at the camera.
  • Funbag Airbag: Tom gets knocked into the cleavage of a girl sunbathing at the beach when he tries to hit on some ladies. The girl and her friends then slap him and throw him away.
  • Guns Are Worthless: The drug smugglers in the beginning are all armed with Uzis and fail to hit any of the attacking ninjas. The only other gun is owned by the leader of the rival band, who decides to cock it and pose directly beside the hiding Jim, who knocks him out.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: Especially when they ride on motorcycles during the day.
  • Humble Goal:
    • The heroes simply want to get a tour of their band together. They have no other goal besides reacting to people trying to kill them.
    • The villains are motivated to destroy Dragon Sound to get the proceeds of a club band gig. The rival bands want to replace them as the regular club band, and Jeff gets involved on the prospect of getting that gig money for himself. Beating up his sister's boyfriend is a bonus.
  • Improv: A lot of the dialogue is obviously improvised or at best loosely scripted. The Ham-to-Ham Combat between the rival band and the club owner is obviously not scripted, with each character blurting repetitive dialogue on top of the other's.
  • Improvised Weapon: Various characters grab sticks and barrels to throw and whack each other with. Jim puzzlingly carries a short piece of PVC pipe to the rescue of Tom, even though he would have had plenty of time to pack a better weapon.
  • It's Personal: When Jim gets seriously wounded in the final battle, both Mark and John go psycho on the remaining ninjas.
  • Jump Cut: Used very inappropriately and jarringly to the flow of the movie.
  • Karma Houdini: Jeff's minions are never arrested, they just disappear from the movie, meaning they practically get away with assaulting the heroes and kidnapping one of them.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: The final battle is mostly conducted with katanas. Dragon Sound, in spite of studying the Korean art of Tae Kwon Do, seem perfectly comfortable handling the Japanese swords.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Once the White Ninja sends his ninjas against Mark and his friends, the movie suddenly takes a very dark tone that greatly contrasts the happier mood of the earlier scenes.
  • Large Ham: The manager of the old band, who seems to be shouting all of his lines.
  • Mood Whiplash: The movie is filled with them, but for the wrong reasons.
    • John goes into Jane's classroom and flirts around with her. The next scene is her talking about her divorced parents and how she doesn't like her gang leader brother.
    • John teases Jim by not letting him get his mail. After he gets it, Jim gives a long, tearful monologue about his long-lost father. Immediately after this scene, Jim and the rest of the gang frolic at the beach.
    • Jim finds his father, and finds out his father is flying to Orlando to meet him. Everyone's excited, and there's a long segment of everyone helping Jim buy a new suit and generally get ready for the meeting. Then on the way to the airport, they're attacked by ninjas, and Jim is immediately seriously wounded.
    • The ending. This silly and fairly dumb '80s martial arts movie inexplicably has a dark, violent, grisly Final Battle.
  • Multinational Team: The members of Dragon Sound come from a range of different backgrounds including Korean (Mark), Italian (Tom) and Israeli (Jack).
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Jeff plays this role for his sister. He's dead-set against her going out with John because he thinks John's a loser.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Cocaine-dealing motorcycle-riding Miami ninjas, coming to Orlando.
  • Non-Indicative Name: In a story beat definitely inspired by The French Connection, the opening scene is set in Miami, where the ninja gang intrudes on a drug deal, kills everyone, and steals the shipment of cocaine — but unlike Alain Charnier and his men in the film's namesake, Miami and its criminal gangs never factor into the plot again, and the murder spree and coke theft are only there to establish Yashito's ruthlessness. The ninjas don't mention they're going to sell the coke on their own, either, so the "Miami connection" (to the narcotics trade) would've actually been the guys they took out.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: The members of Dragon Sound are all orphans. Jim is very concerned over finding his long-lost father.
  • Overcrank: Many moves do both this and slow motion in the same shot.
  • Overly Long Scream: Jim's scream upon being wounded lasts a full ten seconds, long enough for three different reaction shots.
  • Pipe Pain: Jim brings a section of PVC pipe to Tom's rescue.
  • Police Are Useless: The cops take no more than two steps away from their car after asking, "Where did everybody go?"
    • Despite numerous huge brawls in public places, and later killing Jeff, the entire ninja clan, and the head of the ninja clan, none of them ever see the inside of a jail cell or even speak to a cop.
  • The Power of Friendship: Some of the songs are based on it, including "Friends for Eternity."
  • Pretty in Mink: One way to show the band is doing well are the nice clothes Jane has, such as her gray rabbit fur jacket she wears (in the scene where the heroes are challenged by another gang) over her evening dress after the group had attended... something not shown, but with the way they all were dressed it was clearly something fancy.
  • Random Events Plot: There are scenes in this movie that just happen with no exposition, lead-in, or explanation. One example is when the good guys eat at an Asian restaurant, and that's all they do for the entire scene.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: When Jim gets severely wounded by the ninjas, Mark and John unleash their rage on the ninjas and brutally kill them all in another Mood Whiplash by the movie. Jim gets better, thankfully.
  • Say My Name: During the final battle, Mark screams Jim's name into his face for several seconds.
  • Scenery Porn: Has a surprising amount for a low-budget B-movie, especially in the final fight in the park.
  • Screaming Warrior: The gang at the end when they are attacking the ninjas, contrasting with their nice, sunny attitudes at the beginning of the film.
  • Serious Business: Being the in-house band of a particular Orlando club is this for Dragon Sound's rivals, and the rivals do not take getting fired, and then replaced by Dragon Sound, well at all. They're so obsessed with getting their job back that they actually hire thugs to kill them! In fact, they're so obsessed with getting their job back they offer their future paycheck for playing as payment to the thugs!
  • Shirtless Scene: Shirts seem to be in very short supply in Orlando during The '80s. Half of the cast goes shirtless for no particular reason. In the final scene, John rips his shirt off before going on a stabbing spree.
  • Shovel Strike: One mook grabs a shovel during the trainyard fight, and tries to attack Mark with it. He gets his ass kicked.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Dragon Sound performs "Against the Ninja" while the evil ninja clan steals the cocaine. At this point, Dragon Sound has no idea who the ninja are or what they're doing.
  • Technical Pacifist: No one in Dragon Sound wants to do any more than rough their rivals up if they had no other choice. Then Jim nearly gets killed. No one lives!
  • Theme Naming: Almost every major character has a name starting with "J", the only outliers being Mark, Tom, and Yashito.
  • Token Minority: Aside from a couple Mook extras and his dad, Jim is the only black character. He is also the weakest member of Dragon Sound and repeatedly loses fights.
  • True Companions: Dragon Sound, who are apparently all orphans. Their main song, "Friends," is about the power of friendship.
  • The Unintelligible: Mark, due to Y.K. Kim's extremely heavy accent. It's often very hard to tell what he's saying without subtitles.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: "Against the Ninja," which is about the cocaine-swiping ninja villains. Dragon Sound performs it at the beginning of the film, when it's suspiciously appropriate.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Hashito and Jeff visit a motorcycle rally.
  • Waving Signs Around: During the beach montage, there's an out-of-place shot of a man from a Christian church holding a sign advocating the establishment of a nudist beach around the Orlando area.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After Jeff's death, his gang of Mooks isn't seen again.
  • World of Badass: Apparently, everyone in the movie knows martial arts. Even the band managers have a fight scene to themselves. Almost the entire cast, including extras and background bodies, were recruited from Y.K Kim's students.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: In spite of being a Tae Kwon Do blackbelt, Tom does not defend himself from the various women who attack him on the beach after he propositions them. His friends have to drag him away by the foot when he curls into a fetal position.
    Kevin Murphy (as the women start beating Tom): Nonono, don't! That's exactly what he wants: you're just turning him on!