This martial arts guilty pleasure film is a rare gem brought back from the dead. This is the only film for Orlando-based martial artist and motivational speaker Y.K. Kim, and it is a fun film at that.
A partnership in Orlando is brewing between local gang leader Jeff and Yashito, the leader of a band of motorcycle-riding ninjas. The deal is a shipment of cocaine, in which Yashito and his men, have taken in Miami by killing all parties. When Jeff and Yashito meet at a local club, a new band called Dragon Sound is making their debut. Jeff is stunned to learn his sister Jane is part of the band and dating the band’s bass player John.
Aside from John, the members of Dragon Sound include guitarist Mark, drummer Jack, keyboardist Jim, and guitarist/co-vocalist Tom. Aside from dealing with Jeff, they also deal with an irate bandleader who lost his job at the club to Dragon Sound. However, what everyone will soon learn is that Mark, John, and Jack are all black belts in Tae Kwon Do. The band soon will have to use all they can when they must deal with the bandleader, Jeff, and Yashito as all three see the band as a threat to their businesses.
At a time when martial arts films in the United States were popping up all over the place, Orlando-based Tae Kwon Do grandmaster Y.K. Kim and director Richard Woo-Sang Park came up with the idea for this movie. Kim invested practically everything in the film only to see it fail. After its home video release in 1987, the film was thought to be long gone. Enter Tim League and Zack Carlson, respectively the owner and the programming director of the Alamo Drafthouse theater chain in Austin, Texas. They found a 35MM print for only fifty dollars and well, after contacting Kim, now both a teacher and motivational speaker, the film has finally come back from the dead for both the old and a new generation to see.
The film truly delves into the “so bad it’s good” genre. Actually, this should be given a “so bad it’s great” thing. The acting is definitely amateurish, but let everyone face the facts. The core cast are locals from Orlando who, believe it or not, include real-life students of Grandmaster Kim’s. The story of the band not only being Tae Kwon Do black belts, but also orphans raised as brothers, proves to be quite interesting and poses curiosity. There is, however, quite a nice twist in a subplot involving keyboard player Jim, played by Maurice Smith, and his search for his real father. Now, before anyone can scream “UFC”, this is a different Maurice Smith, who does get in on some action, but looks to be more of a punching bag.
One thing about the late Richard Park’s movies is that they always involved the same theme. There is a love story involved, in which one of the two just has to be related to a villain. It was done in L.A. Streetfighters (1985), American Chinatown (1993), and K.K. Family List (1997). In this film, the same theme is there with Vincent Hirsch’s John in love with fellow bandmate Jane, whose brother is Jeff, the local biker leader who has joined forces with ninja leader Yashito for control of the drug trade in Central Florida. However, for anyone who has seen Park’s films, the fate of the relationship is more along the lines of L.A. Streetfighters than the latter two films mentioned.
While the acting is pretty bad, the action itself is nicely done for a 1980’s production. Kim, Hirsch, and Joseph Diamand truly are pretty good martial artists. In charge of the fight scenes is classic kung fu film actor Kwon Young-Moon, whose previous choreography includes the Hong Kong film Young Hero (1982) and the aforementioned L.A. Streetfighters. Kwon really utilizes the various aspects of Tae Kwon Do in the film, and it seems a bit farfetched at times that it seems everyone here is doing martial arts. Even the club owner has a short fight scene against the irate bandleader and his goons. Director Park, who plays Uncle Song, even has a short fight against some freeloaders in the film. The finale is nicely done as well with everyone involved kicking major butt and as a result, this ultimately delves the film into a guilty pleasure.
Miami Connection is definitely a guilty pleasure in the vein of 80’s cult classics. If you have not seen this film yet, then you need to rent or even buy the film as it is so bad it is not good, but great! This should be hailed as the definitive 80’s cult action film ever made in this reviewer’s opinion.
WFG Rating: A
Manson International presents a P.J.K. Films Co. Ltd. production. Director: Richard Park. Producer: Y.K. Kim. Writer: Joseph Diamand; story by Y.K. Kim and Richard Park. Cinematography: Maximo Munzi. Editing: Y.K. Kim.
Cast: Y.K. Kim, Vincent Hirsch, Maurice Smith, Joseph Diamand, Angelo Jannotti, Kathy Collier, William Ergle, Siyung Jo, Richard Park, William Young, Jack McLaughlin.