If you not only enjoy but actively seek out little-seen oddities from the VHS era, then consider Miami Connection an out-of-left-field windfall courtesy of Drafthouse Films. As ludicrous in conception—a group of drug dealer-fighting taekwondo experts moonlight as an ass-kicking band called Dragon Sound when they’re not in class at the University of Central Florida—as it is in practice, the film is so unremittingly absurd as to also be constantly entertaining. The acting is wooden and the plot is meandering, but the fight sequences and montages are so hilarious you may not care. Featuring two diegetic performances of the band’s stupid(ly catchy) songs, Y.K. Kim and Woo-sang Park’s film uses Dragon Sound’s music as a not-so-subtle means of conveying its thematic bedrock: “Friends through eternity, loyalty, honesty/We’ll stick together through thick or thin.” These glam-rock interludes are amusing, but they’re also fitting encapsulations of the film’s joyously heartfelt overtones—and not unlike a more PG version of Andrew W.K.‘s pro-partying message. Miami Connection has more than its fair share of lopped-off heads, slow mo, and fake blood, but even its most gruesome fights are propelled by a sense of justice, by the strongly held notion that good guys not only can, but must stamp out evil whenever they encounter it. Righteous dudes in more way than one, our heroes treat this ostensibly simple idea as an existential imperative.
In Miami Connection‘s world, which is mostly confined to Orlando, the martial arts are a unifying force for good. Strangeness thus arises when they start killing people: Far cries from the likes of Van Damme or Seagal, the Dragon Sound dudes are so jovial and well-intentioned that their outbursts of violence, however justified, are often jarring. The filmmakers aren’t especially concerned with reconciling their message of peace with the actions of their characters, content to pass of our collective protagonists are emissaries of goodwill who only beat the shit out of or kill people when left with no other recourse. This is objectively problematic in retrospect, but also utterly beside the point in the moment, which in many respects is Miami Connection‘s calling card: It’s so good at making its flaws endearing and having a good time that you can’t help joining in.
The grain level is sumptuously high throughout, but so is the noise: near-constant scratches and spots that, while not actively bothersome, tend to be the first thing cleaned up in a high-definition transfer of this sort. More an objective flaw than a subjective one, though, it also acts as a fitting reminder of the film's humble origins (Drafthouse found a dusty 35mm print on eBay and bought it sight-unseen for $50), so I'd venture a guess that its target audience is unlikely to mind. The audio is also technically flawed but passable overall. Dragon Sound's soaring choruses and the exaggerated sound effects come through more clearly than the dialogue, which is sometimes more muddled. (The disc's menu opens with a warning that "some imperfections and inconsistencies may occur" as a result of the source material's badly damaged state, something that even a DTS presentation—falsely advertised on the case—would have been able to elevate.)
All of the usual goodies: audio commentary by Y.K. Kim, a making-of documentary, trailers, deleted scenes, and a few featurettes. More notable are the sometimes cringe-worthy Dragon Sound reunion concert, which (wisely) intercuts footage from the film with video of the band performing both "Friends" and "Against the Ninja" at Fantastic Fest 2012, and an alternate ending. In the original (spoilers to follow), one of the gang survives potentially lethal injuries sustained in a climactic battle and is reunited with his long-lost father shortly thereafter. In the alternate, he bleeds out in the backseat of a convertible while his father's inbound plane lands just overhead. Save for the awkward delivery of the line that reveals this latter fact, it's actually a fairly poignant moment that recasts Miami Connection's optimism-fueled joi de vivre—almost certainly the reason it was cut. The fact that it was even filmed shows a certain gusto that, while not always present in the final cut, is nice to know was there on some level all the while.
In wearing its flaws on its sleeve(less shirt), Miami Connection makes them more endearing than problematic.