Motown Productions/TriStar Pictures
Directed by Michael Schultz
Produced by Berry Gordy
Written by Louis Venost
I’ve got a personal cosmology in my head that is kinda like the celebrated and legendary Wold Newton Universe created by the science fiction master Philip Jose Farmer. I connect movies, TV shows, comic books, pulp characters together in my imagination in ways that make perfect sense to me but might have others saying; “WTH?
Take these three movies from the 1980s: “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension” “Big Trouble In Little China” and THE LAST DRAGON. To me all three movies have a lot in common. At the time they were originally released they were financially and critically not well received. I myself loved all three because they mixed up various genres in such a way that I was completely enthralled and captivated. I learned something from these movies that I had also learned from writers such as George C. Chesbro: not to be afraid to mix elements from different genres of fiction. But audiences didn’t take to them back then. Of course, all three of those movies are now considered classics which I suppose now proves that they were all ahead of their time. In My Head, the events of “Buckaroo Banzai” “Big Trouble In Little China” and THE LAST DRAGON are taking place at the same time in the same universe because I can easily conceive of a universe where so much inspired and delightful insanity can all exist at the same time.
THE LAST DRAGON is a delightfully goofy mash-up of martial arts, glitzy musical numbers, Kung Fu mysticism right out of a Marvel comic book, comedy, romance and satire. Leroy Green (Taimak) is a young black man living in Harlem and studies Kung Fu with your typical wise old Kung Fu Master. Leroy’s expertise in the martial arts is so great that he is known far and wide as “Bruce” Leroy. This does not sit well with Sho’Nuff, The Shogun of Harlem (Julius J. Carry III) who sees “Bruce” Leroy as the only thing standing in his way of being the supreme Kung Fu Master of Harlem.
But Leroy seeks a more spiritual path. He only wants to find a Master who can help him achieve such a sublime state of spiritual and physical perfection that he acquires “The Glow.” A mystical energy that only a true Kung Fu Master can control. He is directed to find such a Master whose name and true identity I dare not reveal here since it’s one of the movie’s best gags. Leroy gets sidetracked from his quest when he meets up with the gorgeous pop star and video jockey Laura Charles (Vanity) who is being threatened by video arcade mogul Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney) to sponsor his girlfriend Angela’s (Faith Prince) singing career. The fact that Angela has no singing talent at all doesn’t seem to make a difference to Eddie. It should be noted here that Miss Prince is actually an accomplished Broadway actress and it takes a lot of talent to sing as badly as she does in this movie. Leroy’s life gets complicated when Eddie and Sho’Nuff joins forces. And even more so when Leroy’s quest for a Master takes the most unexpected turn of all as Leroy is forced to look for his Master in the last place he expected to find him.
When people ask me for a list of recommendations for movies that are simply Fun to watch, THE LAST DRAGON is usually in the Top Ten if not the Top Five. And it is a whole lot of fun to watch and best of all, it’s a movie that you can watch over and over again just because of the fun value. First of all, there’s Taimak and Vanity who are one of the most charming and appealing movie couples in film history. Right from their first scene together you’re rooting for this couple to get together. And I like how this movie isn’t afraid to have fun with typical movie stereotypes. “Bruce” Leroy Green dresses, talks, speaks and acts as if he’s straight out of a Shaw Brothers movie whereas the Asians in this movie talk and act the way we traditional expect African-Americans to behave. Trust me, it’s funny. It’s also quite funny and really sweet in how Leroy’s little brother Richie (Leo O’Brien) is more street smart than his older brother but when it counts they are able to mesh their skills together.
What else can I say? The acting is excellent. Everybody knows what kind of movie they’re making and act accordingly. Look for Keisha Knight as “Bruce” Leroy’s little sister (it’s awfully cute how he calls her “Little Blossom”) Chazz Palminteri and William Macy are also in in this movie. Pay attention and you’ll see them in small but pivotal roles. Julius J. Carry III cemented Sho’Nuff as one of the greatest bad guys in the history of cinema with this movie. “The Rhythm Of The Night” is one of the greatest videos ever made to promote a movie. The moment when “Bruce” Leroy realizes who The Master is has to be one of the great Stand Up And Cheer moments in movie history. THE LAST DRAGON is one of the few movies I actually wanted to see a sequel to as I had grown to love and enjoy the characters so much. If you’ve never seen THE LAST DRAGON then your homework assignment is to do so right now.