Remember that time when you were in that band with all of your karate buddies and you would literally have to fight for gigs? No? Well then I guess you were never in a band like Miami Connection’s Dragon Sound. Fortunately for today’s young musicians, most of whom look like they could barely land a slap on the back let alone a roundhouse kick to the eye, a lot has changed since the 80s. Miami Connection had its first limited release in 1987 before drifting into obscurity for 25 years only to resurface last year and become a new cult darling. It strikes that odd ‘so bad it’s good’ chord that works best when the cheese is aged just right.
Miami Connection was a passion project of one-time writer/ director/ actor (career martial artist/ author/ motivational speaker/ real life Buckaroo Banzai) Y.K. Kim‘s that subsequently almost bankrupted him. The movie pits his innocent band of buddies against every biker, drug dealer and jerk in the whole city. Despite the after school special vibe and production value, the closeness of the multinational band members does actually give the film a lot of heart. With song lyrics like “friends for eternity, loyalty, honesty, we’ll stay together through thick and thin…” they come across as the most sensitive, caring yet deadly guys you could ever hope to jam with. But don’t let their soft spoken brotherly love fool you; they will straight up kill you if you force their hand. With about half a dozen subplots, all you really need to know is the bad guys are there to be really bad and the good guys don’t like it.
Kitschy gems from the vault like this are usually relegated to YouTube clips (such as Hard Ticket to Hawaii which came out the same year) and the odd living room screening. Luckily for us Drafthouse films has made a new high def print of Miami Connection that’s currently touring cinemas as part of their ‘Cult Classics’ series. Seeing this film on a big screen today with a full audience should make for a boatload of fun. Big laughs are sure to be had at the overuse of slow motion, melodramatic music cues, inclusion of takes where the actors stumble over their lines, shots that linger just a couple seconds too long and the casual losses of limbs and lives. The only form of exhibition that could compete with seeing this in the cinema would be the drive-in, which would feel totally appropriate for this low budget exploitation flick.
It’s a shame that this movie didn’t take off the time of its release, if only for the merchandising possibilities: every kid could have had a Dragon Sound cassette in their walkman, a band of ninjas T-shirt, Y.K. Kim lunch box, action figures, arcade games, mullet wigs… Now that I think about it, how did this NOT happen? I guess the world just wasn’t ready for Miami Connection in 1987, here’s hoping in plays better with 2013’s more enlightened audiences.