What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

Well, it’s set in Orlando, but whatever, we can call it Miami. Y.K. Kim, Vincent Hirsch, William Ergle and Maurice Smith star in Miami Connection.

Miami ConnectionCast of Characters:
Mark – Y.K. Kim
John – Vincent Hirsch
Jeff – William Ergle
Jack – Joseph Diamond
Jim – Maurice Smith
Tom – Angelo Janotti
Jane – Kathie Collier
Yashito – Siyung Jo

Director – Richard Park & Y.K. Kim
Screenplay – Joseph Diamond & Richard Park
Producer – Y.K. Kim
Rated R

Down in Miami, a cocaine deal is interrupted by a group of motorcycle-riding ninjas led by martial arts master Yashito (Siyung Jo). They steal the drugs, kill the dealers, somehow forget to take the money involved, and ride back up to Orlando.

Meanwhile, in O-Town, the ninjas’ second-in-command, Jeff (William Ergle), is irked by the fact that his sister Jane (Kathie Collier) has hooked up with John (Vincent Hirsch), the bassist for Dragon Sound, a band that consists of him and four other orphaned, Tae Kwon Do trained University of Central Florida students: Mark (Y.K. Kim), Jim (Maurice Smith), Tom (Angelo Janotti) and Jack (Joseph Diamond).

Is any of this making sense yet?

Since Jeff is so pissed off, for whatever unexplained reason, that John is going steady with his sis, he gets the help of the ninjas, and another local band that was fired from the club and replaced with Dragon Sound, to destroy the five band members.

I’m not making any of this up, and I honestly couldn’t even if I tried.

Miami Connection, despite being filmed in Orlando… and taking place in Orlando, aside from the intro drug deal scene that says “SOMEWHERE IN MIAMI”, is one of those rare treats like The Room, Troll 2, Birdemic and, most recently reviewed on this site, Samurai Cop that’s so incomprehensible, yet so extremely earnest throughout it all, it needs to be seen. After watching this the first time, I did something I rarely do, if ever – I watched it a second time just to make sure what I saw actually happened and wasn’t a bad head trip. Ironically, the second viewing made less sense, but to even attempt to make any sense of what you see here not only takes away the “so bad it’s good” joy from your experience, you might strain yourself into an embolism in the process.

Prior to making this film, Korean-born co-director/producer/star/story creator Y.K. Kim had absolutely no experience in film, and allegedly only saw just six films before being inspired to preach the gospel of peace, love and kicking people’s asses with Tae Kwon Do to us ‘Mericans. According to Kim, he had no script and he didn’t even know there was supposed to be one. Dialogue would just be created on location (and, boy, is it evident here). Once finished, it received a limited release, only to disappear into obscurity, by way of the critical panning from both critics and moviegoers, and nearly bankrupting Kim. It wasn’t until 2012 that Drafthouse Films brought it back for a re-release.

To say Miami Connection is bizarre would be an understatement. When we first meet our five, multi-ethnic Tae Kwon Do heroes, they’re jamming away on stage to some extremely ’80s-dated song about friends that’s cheesy enough to fit an after-school special. They’re not only experts at martial arts, they appear to also be beyond virtuoso musicians since they can play their instrument with their hands in one spot the entire time and manage to make an entire song come out of it. Even more impressive is John’s ability to lay down a bass groove while his fist is pumping in the air.

Everyone’s having a good time until Jane’s dickhead, bearded drug dealing brother Jeff – whose Sheriff of Rottingham from Robin Hood: Men in Tights meets Rob Halford’s fashion designer appearance puts him somewhere around the top of the list for least intimidating villain – pops up and doesn’t take too kindly to his sister cozying up to the bass player. And when a rival band wants payback for losing their gig spot to these unbearably happy orphans, Jeff’s more than willing to help.

Speaking of that rival band, there’s a fight scene between that band and the club owner (the clip posted above) that just comes out of the blue, and nothing I say about can do it any justice. These guys don’t say a single word as they slowly approach each other, but then it’s like their attitudes go from zero to warp speed in the span of half-a-second and next thing you know it’s a flurry of poor acting, furious finger pointing, shoving, not-so-smooth transitioning to kung fu fighting each other and cussing like there’s no tomorrow. And the amount of passion and emphasis they put on the profanity is almost worth the watch on its own. It’s like watching kids on a playground by themselves experience the joy of punishment free cursing for the first time in their lives.

From there it just gets more absurd, and if you think it couldn’t get any more absurd than what I just said so far, trust me, it does.

Obviously, from a production standpoint, this is in no way a good film, and it’s so incredibly stuck in its time that for being made in 1987, it was probably already considered dated by 1988. The tone takes on about sixteen different personalities, the dubbed dialogue is nonsensical and at times just sounds like a bunch of bickering, the martial arts sequences are strangely choreographed (opponents are actually kind enough to wait for the other to catch up), a landlocked city like Orlando apparently has a beach (Lake Eola’s pretty, for sure, but hardly what I’d call a beach destination), and the acting is jaw-droppingly bad.

Yet part of why Miami Connection, like many of the greatest best-worst films ever made, is so watchable is the extreme earnestness on display. These guys are all so sincere, it makes the execution scene in The Green Mile look like an episode of Laugh-In. Every character that appears onscreen lays it on so thick and wears all their emotions on their sleeves, you start to wonder at some point if someone threatened their families at gunpoint if they didn’t exert every ounce of blood, sweat, tears, heart, soul and energy into making this film.

No greater example of said sincerity is seen here than in the subplot involving Jim’s long-lost father. A father that Mark had no idea Jim had ’cause his definition of an orphan must be someone that came from nothing.

Mark, see, when a man and woman truly love each other, or don’t love each other – hell, don’t even know each other but are too drunk to realize the condom they’re using is busted, they come together and partake in the act of intercourse. From that act, a child is conceived.

I’m not saying it’s on a level of acting gravitas that could ’cause Daniel Day-Lewis to fall on his knees and weep, but if there’s any scene here that might as well be flashing “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION!” in big, bright letters across the screen, it’s any moment where Jim opens his mouth.

By the way, Jim’s ability to heal is unprecedented. In the climactic duel between his friends and the ninjas, he gets lacerated to hell and back, yet in spite of his near-death condition, he’s up and ready and cleared to go home in about two hours with his reunited father, whose words seem to be saying “My God in Heaven, son, you have no idea how long I’ve waited for this day where we finally embrace each other for the first time!!”, while his performance seems to be saying, “Eh – who the hell cares?”

You can’t deny that this is as inept as filmmaking can possibly get, but you also can’t deny the sheer enthusiasm – no matter how naive it is or not – everyone involved in the film has. You may find yourself revisiting more than a few scenes just to clear up some “What the hell?” moments, and be prepared to scratch your head so much you’ll be picking at your brain by the halfway mark, but regardless of how unintended they may be, laughs are laughs and you’ll have plenty of them here. Plus, you have to admire the movie’s message of peace and love, “ONLY THROUGH THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE CAN WE ACHIEVE WORLD PEACE”, which is exemplified through the main characters’ extreme relishing in racking up the body count by way of bloody massacre after bloody massacre.

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