Dragon Sound is a college fraternity and New Wave rock band committed to clean living, Tae Kwon Do, loyalty and friendship. In spite of their straight edge lifestyle, the group of young men has managed to infuriate a lot of the riff raff infiltrating the Central Florida area. Ninjas, drug gangs and a rival rock band all have a score to settle with them. Complicating matters is the fact that Dragon Sound member John (Vincent Hirsch) has begun dating Jane (Kathy Collier), sister of local drug kingpin Jeff (William Eagle). Led by their charismatic Tae Kwon Do master Mark (played by director Y. K. Kim), Dragon Sound takes on all the bad guys who dare cross their path. Will Dragon Sound member Jim (Maurice Smith) finally be reunited with his estranged, Missing In Action military dad – or will the remaining gang members silence Dragon Sound once and for all?
Marketed as a “so bad it’s good” film by Alamo Drafthouse, Miami Connection in fact has a solid leg up on all those other action-adventure movies that cluttered video store shelves back in the 1980s. There is lots of action and fight scenes, very good production values with countless locations and crowd scenes, a sprightly original music score and surprisingly capable direction, photography and editing from newcomers outside of the film industry. Miami Connection’s chief source of snarky laughter arises from the terrible acting of the leads, reportedly all students from director Kim’s Tae Kwon Do studio. One memorable bit of subpar performing is shown on the new trailer accompanying the film at recent midnight screenings: Jim gets word of his still-living father by mail. In front of a cockeyed mailbox, Jim says “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” in an unmanly falsetto voice. In addition, Kim’s Korean accent in particular is almost undecipherable, leading to some politically incorrect chuckles. (English subtitles have been thoughtfully included on the disc.) The bad acting for the most part, however, is bad bad acting. Head drug lord Jeff has all the worldly menace of a busboy, his heavy beard failing to disguise an inexpressive face. Astute viewers of the film’s many crowd scenes will notice many of the gang members, for the most part stand stock still with their arms at their sides, looking rather bored.
Miami Connection shares similarities with John S. Rad’s Dangerous Men (2005, see Screem issue #12) or Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (2003, see this issue) as being the work of enthusiastic, idealistic artistes whose English As a Second Language got in the way of their ambitions. Miami Connection does have an infectious, heartfelt vibe that many viewers will enjoy in a media landscape oversaturated with postmodern irony. Kim and his Tae Kwon Do students want to put on a show and entertain you, and they won’t get mad if you laugh at some of their flubbed lines.
According to the booklet accompanying the Blu-Ray and DVD, Kim was approached by director Woo-sang Park to make a film using his students. A self-made man who came to America without any money, Kim threw himself into producing the film using the talent he had at hand. As is the case with many independently financed and produced feature films, distributors all passed on the less-than stellar results. Kim then changed the film’s downbeat ending (included here on the disc) and did some additional edits. The film premiered again to a bewildered, cynical audience who razzed it off the screen in its few showings in Florida. When a 35 mm copy of the film became available on an Internet auction site for $50, the Alamo Drafthouse theater in Austin, Texas bid on it and screened it sight unseen as part of their “Weird Wednesday” program. Audience reaction was positive, and so Miami Connection would have a second life on the repertory theater circuit, playing to sold-out midnight showings.
As for extras on the DVD and Blu-Ray, there is a commentary track with Y.K. Kim and Joe Diamand moderated by Zack Carlson. KAgainst the Ninja, the name of one of the many inane songs performed by Dragon Sound in the film. There is the 20-minute feature “Friends For Eternity: The Making Of The Miami Connection” with interviews with the surviving cast members such as Kim, Joe Diamand, Maurice Smith, Angelo Jannotti and Vincent Hirsch. The feature shows off the cast’s inexperience as Smith tells how it took him two whole hours to get a dramatic scene in the can – most motion pictures take considerably longer than that! There is also the 10-minute “Dragon Sound Reunion Concert From The Fantastic Fest 2012,” where the original band members of Dragon Sound get on stage to belt out their very forgettable synth-rock hits. There’s even another surprise in store for consumers when they open the disc, with a free digital download of the film available!im notes that the original title of the film was
Bottom line: mainstream film fans may be disappointed with Miami Connection as they’ve seen much better and cult film fans may be disappointed with Miami Connection as they’ve seen far, far worse. Anybody recall Charles Nizet’s Rescue Force (1990) …? Miami Connection is best enjoyed as amiably dorky fun for those willing to dock their I.Q. by 20 or 30 points while viewing.