Actors: Faith Prince, Taimak, Vanity
Director: Michael Schultz
Producer: Rupert Hitzig
Format: Blu-ray, Subtitled
Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Thai, English, Spanish
Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Spanish
Region: All Regions
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018
Run Time: 108 minutes
The martial arts movie meets blaxploitation films in this campy cult classic from the mid-1980s, brought to life in this 30th Anniversary high definition Blu-ray release. I’m still unclear on whether Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon is meant to be parody or homage to classic kung-fu films, but it lives comfortably in the pop culture of the ‘80s, complete with absurdly colorful and over-the-top wardrobe and a soundtrack which often takes over the narrative like an extended music video. Whether you love it or laugh at it, fans of all types can appreciate this forgotten cult action-comedy in all its remastered glory, not to mention the new special features.
The movie opens with a training sequence that shows martial arts student Leroy “Bruce Leroy” Green (Taimak) karate chopping arrows with the skill and precision of a master. All that he has left to accomplish in order to become the greatest fighter is to obtain a powerful force known as “The Glow,” and sets out on quest to obtain it. Although this opening sequence in a dojo might suggest an Asian setting for the film, we soon discover that Leroy is actually a shy teenager living in
Harlem with his family running a small pizza restaurant.
Even in Harlem there is a small subculture of
martial arts fans, most of which seem to gather for impromptu fights at the
local movie theater showings of Bruce Lee classics.
Among this group is a bullying kung fu warrior named Sho’nuff (Julius J. Carry III), who travels with a posse of minions and refers to himself as the ‘Shogun of Harlem.’ Despite his many attempts to goad Leroy into fighting, Sho’nuff is merely an annoyance until he pairs up with a gangster trying to branch out into the music industry. In an attempt to promote a record, Eddie Arkadian (Christopher Murney) kidnaps a singer named Laura (Vanity) from a popular nightclub to try and convince her to help make his music popular. The logic of this crime is insignificant, because it merely provides the opportunity for Leroy to save the day and win the girl countless times over.
This is as detailed as the narrative gets, filling the screen time with more music video footage than plot. The soundtrack includes music from Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Vanity and even a music video of DeBarge performing “Rhythm of the Night.” This was clearly the beginning of the MTV mentality in filmmaking, but now it is just more dated material adding to the campiness of the movie. The camp carries over into the martial art aspects, with an actual glow achieved in the final fight scene against Sho’nuff. Though not all of the humor may be completely intentional, this is the kind of film which becomes increasingly entertaining because of how dated it feels.
The 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release features a fully remastered high definition presentation, along with a few extras. There is a commentary track with director Michael Schultz, plus a making-of featurette and original theatrical trailer which are exclusive to the Blu-ray release.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Fun fact: I once saw a stage production of "Road House" starring The Last Dragon's Taimak in a blonde mullet wig.
It was pretty spectacular.
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