Miami Connection (1987)

“We could write another taekwondo song, and after Tom does one of his guitar solos, we could all break boards. Jack could do a drum solo.”

Justin’s rating: A MOVIE FRIEND?

Justin’s review: It’s easy enough to find bad movies to make fun of, but there’s a special kind of entertainingly bad movie that is much more rare and become cult classics in their own right. Miami Connection has been on a long and winding path to widespread recognition, but now it’s finally arrived. Personally, I haven’t had this much fun with a cheesy ’80s movie in a long, long time.

Miami Connection is quite the relatable film, too, because which one of us didn’t end up bunking with fellow orphans at college while taking taekwondo from our Korean master and forming a hit rock band that fights ninjas on the side? The filmmakers must have had a camera on my whole life, man, because it’s downright eerie to see my backstory play out this way.

When a motorcycle gang of ninja drug dealers bring cocaine up from Miami to Orlando, they unwittingly end up on a collision course with DRAGON SONG. Dragon Song is the aforementioned college rock band/martial arts experts who just wanna have a good time and occasionally get their face kicked in by their wise teacher, Mark (Y.K. Kim). They’re content to sit back and be goofy together, but the druggies just won’t leave them alone. So inevitably, fights break out and Dragon Song knocks out the drug trade, one pasty dork at a time.

This is the kind of movie that has so many earnestly silly moments that you start tallying them up to tell your friends later. Where to begin? The fact that Dragon Sound goes everywhere and does everything together like a really specific support group? The gloriously synth soundtrack? The villain’s lush and magnificent beard? A guy’s tearful revelation of his family’s lost history… while he’s heading off to the showers? The most awkward kiss ever recorded between two human beings laying on a chair in the middle of the surf? A drug dealer’s arm being sliced off by a katana in the middle of a brawl? Mark’s lack of eyebrows and propensity to hand-feeding his students breakfast? The constant and inescapable theme of friendship?

Miami Connection’s journey to becoming a cult movie is nearly as fascinating as the movie itself. Made in 1987, it bombed, was largely forgotten, and nearly was erased from all existence due to hurricane damage to the original prints. But in 2009, a Alamo Drafthouse representative discovered the print, spliced it back together, and started showing it in 2009 to enormous success. This cult following resulted in the movie being re-issued and even being the subject of a popular Rifftrax episode (hosted by former MST3K cast members).

We should all thank our lucky stars that this movie wasn’t lost, because I promise you that it is so much fun to watch. It’s got that kind of dorky sincerity that only could have come out of the 1980s from inexperienced people trying their hearts out, and you can sense that from every scene. And you know what? The martial arts fight scenes are actually really well done — far more so than any you’d find in, say, Karate Kid. Miyagi is great for quotes, but I’ll take Mark and his groupies for actual throwdowns, thank you. I mean, when you get to the final fight scene and Dragon Song is going absolutely berserk against the ninjas, it’s impossible to not be on your feet cheering and perhaps laughing so hard you’ll rupture your diaphragm.

From Dragon Song’s members continually taking off their shirts to non-sequitur ninja appearances to a hit song called “Against The Ninja” to a street brawl that contained actual cops and actual biker gang members, Miami Connection is the ’80s martial arts action movie you’ve always needed — but never knew existed until now.

See it. Love it. Believe in it. And share it with all your friends.

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