Miami Connection Blu-ray features poor video and audio in this poor Blu-ray release
A martial arts rock band goes up against a band of motorcycle ninjas who have tightened their grip on Florida's narcotics trade.
For more about Miami Connection and the Miami Connection Blu-ray release, see Miami Connection Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on December 9, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Miami Connection is a curious case where the story of the film is far more interesting than the
story in the film. Of course, that implies the film has a story. The people who made Miami
Connection worked from an outline, not a script. The performers improvised their dialogue, and
not one of them had any prior experience. The acting isn't amateurish so much as non-existent.
The "plot", if you can call it that, doesn't bother with exposition or logic; it just hops from one
set piece to another with minimal set-up and occasional stabs at attitude. After every distributor
in the country had passed on the finished product, one industry insider took pity on producer and
star Y.K. Kim and suggested that he reshoot the ending. Only then did Kim and his co-star (and
now associate producer) Joseph Diamond decide that maybe they should read a few books about
Y.K. Kim was a successful Tae Kwon Do instructor and motivational speaker who had emigrated
from Korea as a teenager and Horatio Alger-ed his way to success. Korean film director Woo-Sang Park a/k/a "Richard Park" saw Kim interviewed on
Korean TV and thought he could turn
him into an action star. Park somehow persuaded Kim to bankroll Miami Connection from a
story outline they hatched together. Apparently for one of the few times in his life, Kim made a
bad business decision.
The film was shot in Orlando, Florida, where Kim had settled. Kim filled out the cast and much
of the crew with friends and martial arts students, none of whom had any prior experience in
motion pictures. When the results were cut together, potential distributors didn't just reject it;
they told Kim to throw it in the garbage. Eventually, with a reshot ending, Miami Connection
played for two weeks in a handful of Orlando theaters—and disappeared.
Two decades later, enter Zack Carlson, a programmer at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in
Austin, Texas. On a whim, Carlson bought a print of Miami Connection from an eBay seller for
$50 and fell in love. The result was a two-year odyssey to reunit the original participants, restore
the film, arrange a theatrical release (through the Drafthouse Films label) and, ultimately, create
this feature-laden Blu-ray. Hard though it is to imagine, a sequel is currently being considered.
Then again, anything is possible for fans and creators so convinced of the greatness of their long-ignored masterpiece that they actually released a
"for your consideration" Oscar promo
touting Maurice Smith for best supporting actor on the strength of a crying scene of which (as
Oscar Wilde said of a passage in Dickens) one must have a heart of stone to get through it
For Your Consideration
The title may say "Miami", but the film is set in Orlando, the adopted home of star Y.K. Kim.
There, a lovable gang of orphans and self-styled "brothers" attend college together (what they're
studying is anybody's guess), although their real love is playing Eighties-style synth-rock in a
band called Dragon Sound. All of the guys are also Tae Kwon Do black belts. For the record,
they are Mark (Kim), Jack (Diamond), John (Vincent Hirsch), Jim (Smith) and Tom (Angelo
Janotti). As it happens, only Janotti was actually a musician; when the film was made, he was
performing with his girlfriend (and later wife) Kathy Collier, who appears as "Jane", John's
girlfriend, a fan of Dragon Sound and also occasionally its lead singer. Collier and Janotti give
the film its fig leaf of musical credibility. However, since Janotti was the only Dragon Sound
member with no martial arts training, his character, Tom, is the one who always gets beaten up or
taken prisoner. (Apparently, Janotti was also jealous enough of Collier that, whenever "Jane" had
a romantic scene with "John", the production team would send him off on an errand.)
The enemy, and the connection to Miami, is a gang of motorcycle-riding ninjas—yes, you read
that correctly: motorcycle-riding ninjas—led by a white ninja named Yashito (Si Yi Jo), who has
some sort of vague plan to take over all of Florida's drug scene. The plan involves an equally
vague alliance with Jeff (William Eagle), a big man in Orlando, who also happens to be Jane's
brother and disapproves of her dating a Dragon Sound band member (or, really, anyone;
Scarface, perhaps?). Jeff is also connected to the band whose spot at the local club was given to
Dragon Sound by the club owner, because the crowd liked them better. The resulting
disagreement was settled through martial arts. Even though Miami Connection is about the
Florida drug trade of the Eighties, guns are rarely used. It's not honorable. Or something.
In good "B" movie writing, relationships are simplified, streamlined and telegraphed, so that the
audience doesn't have to waste time thinking about them. Writers have to work at this, but the
hallmark of bad "B" movie writing is laziness. Character connections and plot complications are
layered one upon another without explanation just to get from one scene to the next. Miami
Connection doesn't even qualify as lazy writing, because there's no apparent design. "You need
to get rid of that band", Yashito tells his partner, Jeff, "so you can control that area." Huh? They're not crime fighters. They're just a
band. We get big moments, with no real sense of why they occur: club scenes, training montages, several different
forms of battle, a Florida beach romp, a daring
rescue and an emotional bonding of brothers when it's suddenly revealed that one of them isn't an
orphan after all (this is Smith's "Oscar moment"). Director Park even includes a scene where the
Dragon Sound brotherhood rushes to protect a Korean restaurant owner from a gang of
hooligans, only to discover that he too is a Miyagi-like expert in martial arts. The actor playing
the restaurant owner? Director Park himself.
Midway through the film, there's a lengthy sequence set in a biker bar with no apparent
connection to the plot other than the fact that some of the characters ride bikes and bad guys Jeff
and Yashito are in attendance. The real purpose is to show multiple biker chicks flashing their
boobs as brazenly as possible. Before putting out Oscar trailers, the makers of Miami Connection
and the people at Drafthouse should have taken a hard look at the screen and a long look in the
mirror, and then been honest with themselves about what director Park was creating "for your
A brief disclaimer appears before the Blu-ray's menu loads:
Miami Connection was almost lost when a hurricane destroyed the film's original
Our transfer was assembled from the best existing materials and scanned at 2K resolution. Due to the nature
of the available elements, some imperfections and inconsistencies may occur.
The "we" behind "[o]ur transfer" is nowhere identified, but presumably it refers to Drafthouse
Films, because no one else was investing any money in Miami Connection before Drafthouse
acquired it. (The hurricane in question must be Hurricane Charley, which caused extensive
damage to Orlando in August 2004.)
Sure enough, the source materials for Miami Connection are of inconsistent quality, with portions
in relatively good shape and others showing considerable wear and tear in the form of scratches,
blotches, dirt and dust. Clarity and detail are only fair, although I suspect they were never
particularly good, especially in night scenes where lighting would have been less than ideal. The
cinematographer was Maximo Munzi, who has continued to work in TV and independent film,
but this was only his second feature, and he was working with a director who could barely speak
English and a cast and crew of non-professionals. It's a minor miracle he got anything at all on
I have never seen a screening of the restored Miami Connection, but I'm willing to bet that the
image on Drafthouse/Image's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray is as strong as the source will allow. Blacks
are weak, detail is inconsistent and colors are washed out. The film's low-budget origins, plus the
lack of an OCN, are evident in the graininess of the image, but the grain is accentuated by an
overlay of video noise that is most noticeable in fine detail in the background of long shots;
instead of the "alive" and shifting patterns of film emulsion, we get the rapidly vibrating particles
of agitated pixels. Fortunately, Drafthouse's technical crew made the correct decision not to strip
away the noise at the expense of removing detail. Unfortunately, the detail that remains is in
service of a movie that I can't be convinced is good, no matter how many times its creators tell
Although the Blu-ray jacket indicates a sound format of DTS-HD MA 2.0, the only soundtrack
on the disc is Dolby Digital 2.0 at the standard DVD format of 192 kbps. The original audio
format was "Ultra Stereo", which was the generic form of Dolby Surround. Although no
disclaimer appears regarding audio elements, scratchiness at the very beginning announces that
they are in rough shape, but perhaps that was always the case. Voices have a thin, compressed
quality that I suspect would not improve with lossless encoding. (Neither would the tin-eared
dialogue.) The sound effects have the artificial quality of a badly dubbed Hong Kong film, and
the synth-heavy score has a muddy, blurred quality that, again, is most likely not a result of the
encoding format. Despite repeated assertions in the commentary and other extras that the songs
by Dragon Sound are "classics" and "catchy", I found them generic and instantly
forgettable—and that's coming from someone who was there in the Eighties and loves the music.
Even the cheesiest pop tunes have to be well-crafted. Dragon Sound's are not.
Commentary with Producer/Star Y.K. Kim and Joe Diamond: Kim and Diamond are
interviewed by Zack Carlson, the programmer at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in
Austin, Texas whose discovery of Miami Connection resulted in its restoration and
current distribution. Carlson is a good interviewer and keeps his subjects talking. He's
also a genuine fan of the film. If you are too, there are interesting stories here about its
Friends for Eternity: The Making of Miami Connection (1080p; 1.78:1; 19:16): Kim,
Diamond, Smith, Jannotti and Hirsch all recall the experience of making the film. One of
the most revealing moments is when they describe finally getting the film in front of
Orlando audiences and hearing laughter where they didn't expect it.
Alternate Ending (1080p; 1.85:1; 2:23): This is the film's original ending that was
reshot on the advice of the one person with professional experience who would even give
Kim the time of day.
Deleted Scenes (1080p; 1.85:1; 11:45): A collection of trims and scene extensions, any
of which could have been included in the finished film without affecting the pacing.
Dragon Sound Reunion Concert From Fantastic Fest 2012 (1080p; 1.78:1; 10:03):
Reuniting at the High Ball Club in Texas, the band performs (or, in some cases, mimes)
"Friends" and "Against the Ninja".
"Who Is Y.K. Kim?" (480i; 1.33:1; 1:48): According to this short promotional video,
he's a national treasure who will change your life.
"The New American Dream" (1080i; 1.78:1; 22:03): Grandmaster Kim's self-help
program for weight loss and financial well-being. Now you don't have to tune into late
night TV to hear the testimonials, get the website link or hear the pitch for the DVD set
and accompanying book full of helpful advice like eat well, get rest and think positive.
Cult classics are made by the audience, not the filmmakers, and certainly not by critics and
reviewers. According to Zack Carlson, Miami Connection was lifted from obscurity by the
audience at a Drafthouse event known as a "Reel One" party, where a non-paying audience
watches the first twenty minutes of four or five films and their reaction dictates whether the
theater adds the film to its future schedule. According to Carlson, the
"Reel One" audience went
"bananas" for Miami Connection, and subsequent bookings at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin
sold out on word of mouth. The magic seems to have carried over to the limited theatrical release
in November of this year. At Rotten Tomatoes, the movie currently
has a score of 80% fresh
(with 10 reviews) and an audience rating of 79% (with 149 user ratings). Maybe it's your thing.
If so, the Blu-ray is a decent presentation with an informative crop of extras. Don't say you
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Image Entertainment will release on Blu-ray directors Y.K. Kim and Park Woo-sang's Miami Connection (1987), starring Y.K. Kim, Vincent Hirsch and Joseph Diamand. Exact technical specs and supplemental features to be included with this release are unknown at the ...