Fantastic Fest Review: 'Miami Connection'

"Friends through eternity, loyalty, honesty/We'll stay together through thick or thin/Friends forever, we'll be together/ We're on top 'cause we plan to win." - Dragon Sound, in song, multiple times, in the film "Miami Connection," and you, after you see it, for the next three days.

In 1987, a Central Florida Taekwondo master/motivational speaker named Y.K. Kim somehow found himself before the camera, making a violent, synth-rock fueled anti-drug action picture extolling the virtues of martial arts, camaraderie, hanging around the house with your shirt off and finding lost family members. Tommy Wiseau can watch this movie and only weep.

The writing is awful. The acting is wretched. The direction is humiliating, with non-actors talking over one another and standing awkwardly on Xs. Even some of the fight scenes, while surprisingly gory, are a mess. The story is incoherent, as if you drank a sixpack of Miller Lite and fell asleep in during an episode of "Spencer: For Hire." I'll do my best to orient you.

Dragon Sound is a (very) close-knit group of a guys who train in Taekwando all day and play sub-Styx power pop all night. They've got a new female singer in the group, but her brother is part of a group of mean, nasty drug dealers. When the jealous band that used to perform at the very neon nightclub that hired Dragon Sound joins forces with the smugglers, our hirsute group of friends (who are frequently on the verge of taking a shower, and letting you know it) are suddenly in peril.

The musical breaks feel endless, though this might be because Dragon Sound only have two songs, so they're played in full. One of their tunes is "Against the Ninjas," a bit of foreshadowing for the big finish, when the band finds themselves against some ninjas. (The ninjas ride motorcycles.)

Each member of the group has their own delightful idiosyncrasies, but the character Jim surely steals the show. The very '80s-coiffed African-American with a high voice flashes his Chekov's Gun when he bluntly marches his way through a speech about trying to find his lost father by sending letters to various authorities. This is forgotten for most of the film until the mail comes and, with a big smile, he announces "I found him!"

The miracle of "Miami Connection" is that it is next to impossible not to break out in cheers. Somehow during the film's short running time, you'll find that you've grown to like these characters. The alchemy is impossible to recreate, it has to happen naturally. There's something to be said about "friends forever" who curse "stupid cocaine."

Film fans should get prepped to scrutinize, memorize and analyze the intricacies of this amazing readymade work of art. Notice how one of the toughies wears a Coca-Cola sweatshirt, but in a later scene Dragon Sound drinks Pepsi. If you don't think that is fraught with meaning, well, I just don't know what to do with you.

It would be a great bit of gonzo film exhibition to shoot a stylized, incoherent grade Z martial arts/crime picture that looks like the 1980s and present it as the forgotten best, worst movie. Frankly, I wouldn't put it past the upstart distribution company Drafthouse Films, but circumstance led me to share a van ride with the twenty-five-years older cast of "Miami Connection," a group of non-actors who were once followers of "Master Kim." No one is more baffled by this than they are.

Grade: An "A" because it is a true "F."