The Last Dragon
|The Last Dragon|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Schultz|
|Produced by||Rupert Hitzig
|Written by||Louis Venosta|
Julius J. Carry III
|Music by||Bruce Miller
|Cinematography||James A. Contner|
|Edited by||Christopher Holmes|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Running time||108 minutes|
The Last Dragon is a 1985 martial arts musical film produced by Rupert Hitzig for Berry Gordy and directed by Michael Schultz. The film was a critical disappointment but a financial success, and is now considered a cult classic. The film stars Taimak, Vanity (Denise Katrina Matthews), Julius J. Carry III, Chris Murney, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Faith Prince. Choreography was done by Lester Wilson and Lawrence Leritz. It was released in theatres by TriStar Pictures on March 22, 1985.
Set in New York City, the movie opens with a martial arts student named Leroy Green (often referred to as "Bruce Leroy"), who has dreams of becoming a great martial artist like his idol Bruce Lee, is training with his master (Thomas Ikeda) where he is put to the test of catching a blue arrow fired from his master's bow. After successfully catching the arrow, the master explains that he has touched the highest level of martial arts accomplishment known as "The Final Level". Martial artists who reach this "Final Level" are said to possess "The Glow", a mystical energy that can only be attained by a true martial arts master. When a fighter's hands glow, he is one of the best in the world and when his entire body glows, he is the greatest fighter alive. Leroy doesn't fully understand, but his master gives him a medal to signify his achievements and releases him to embark on his journey to find Master Sum Dum Goy, whom he claims can help Leroy unlock the power of "The Glow".
At a movie theater showing a Bruce Lee film, Sho'nuff (Julius J. Carry III), the Shogun of Harlem, and his gang storm into the auditorium and order the viewers to leave. When a child points out Leroy in the audience, Sho'nuff recognizes him as a rival and confronts Leroy to goad him into a fight. Several viewers protest to the interruption, leading Sho'nuff to challenge and defeat them while Leroy peacefully makes his way to the exit. A furious Sho'nuff vows that he will defeat Leroy.
Meanwhile, video arcade mogul Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney) seeks to get a hold of 7th Heaven video host Laura Charles (Vanity) in the hopes of getting his girlfriend Angela Viracco's (Faith Prince) new music video featured on her show. Arkadian sends his men to kidnap her after a taping of her show, but they are thwarted by Leroy who easily fights them off. However, he loses his medal during the struggle, which Laura recovers. When Arkadian's men return to tell him that the plan failed, Eddie instructs his brutish henchman Rock (Mike Starr) to retrieve her.
While Leroy is training pupils at his martial arts school, Sho'nuff and his gang break in and assault one of the students, Johnny Yu (Glen Eaton), demanding that Leroy bow before Sho'nuff. Leroy reluctantly complies, and Sho'nuff delivers a swift kick before departing, with a promise that Leroy will have to face him someday.
At the breakfast table, Leroy's family sees an advertisement for Laura's dance competition on television. Recognizing Laura as the woman he had helped the night before, Leroy begs his brother Richie (Leo O'Brien) to take him to the competition to see Laura. Richie, who is smitten with Laura but embarrassed to be seen with his older brother, grudgingly agrees. When they arrive at the venue, Richie attempts to sneak in through the back leaving Leroy outside. While waiting, he witnesses Laura being kidnapped in a production van. A clue left behind reveals that the men work for Eddie Arkadian Productions.
With her finally in custody, Eddie asks Laura to promote his girlfriend's music video on her program, but Laura refuses. As Arkadian's men prepare to coerce her by force, Leroy suddenly bursts into the room and rescues Laura once again. Back at her apartment, Laura gratefully returns Leroy's medal.
Frustrated by Leroy's unwillingness to fight him, Sho'nuff and his gang attempt to send a message by destroying the Green family pizza restaurant. When Leroy arrives afterwards, Richie angrily berates him for his inaction. Leroy retreats to the gym and trains vigorously until he is interrupted by Laura, who asks him to become her bodyguard. Leroy declines on the basis that he must continue his training. Back at his studio, Eddie promises to make Angela a star as soon as he gets his revenge on Leroy. Not wanting to hurt anyone in the process of achieving her stardom, Angela leaves Eddie. Consumed with vengeance, Eddie begins to put his plan into motion and hires Sho'nuff to defeat Leroy.
On a date, Laura takes Leroy to the 7th Heaven studio where she shows him clips of Bruce Lee films and they share a romantic kiss. When Leroy suddenly abandons Laura to continue his search for Sum Dum Goy, Eddie recaptures her and takes control of 7th Heaven. Richie, who has been watching from the catwalk, tries to intervene but is caught as well. Posing as a pizza delivery man, Leroy manages to infiltrate the assumed lair of Master Sum Dum Goy within a fortune cookie factory, but is shocked to discover that the "Master" is merely a computer. Leroy consults his former master for answers, but his master suggests that Leroy has known the answers all along.
Leroy returns to the gym to prepare himself to face Sho'nuff. However, when he returns to 7th Heaven, he is ambushed by an army of violent thugs hired by Arkadian who overwhelm him, until Leroy's students, led by Johnny, charge into the studio to even the odds. Using Laura as bait, Eddie lures Leroy to a dilapidated building where he finally faces off against Sho'nuff. At first, Sho'nuff overcomes Leroy using "The Glow", his hands pulsating with a red aura, and beats him viciously before attempting to drown him. Through several flashbacks, Leroy discovers that he is the Master, thus achieving the "Final Level" and "The Glow". His entire body bathed in a sublime golden light, Leroy uses his new-found power to easily defeat Sho'nuff.
Afterwards, Eddie pulls a gun on Leroy and fires a single bullet, supposedly killing him. But when Eddie draws closer to investigate, he is astonished to find Leroy still alive with the bullet clenched between his teeth. He then detains Eddie for the police before promptly disappearing. In the end, Laura is returned to the studio for another taping of the show where Leroy arrives, and the two reunite and share another kiss. Unashamed by his brother, Richie declares that Leroy is his brother and "the Master".
- Taimak as Leroy Green
- Vanity as Laura Charles
- Julius J. Carry III as Sho'nuff / The Shogun of Harlem
- Chris Murney as Eddie Arkadian
- Leo O'Brien as Richie Green
- Faith Prince as Angela Viracco
- Glen Eaton as Johnny Yu
- Jim Moody as Daddy Green
- Mike Starr as Rock
- Lisa Loving as Sho's Woman #3
- Ernie Reyes, Jr. as Tai
- Esther Marrow as Mama Green
- Keshia Knight Pulliam as Sophia Green
- Jamal Mason as Roy
- B.J. Barie as Jackie
- Chazz Palminteri as Hood #2
- William H. Macy as J.J.
- Carl Anthony Payne II as Kid in pizza shop
- London Reyes as Dancer
This was the first acting role for Taimak, a then-20-year-old black belt who learned to act on the set of this picture. Leroy and Richie's younger sister Sophie is portrayed by Cosby Show actress, Keshia Knight Pulliam. Ernie Reyes, Jr., martial artist and actor, made his film debut at the age of twelve in this film. Leo O'Brien, the actor portraying Bruce Leroy's younger brother Richie, is the younger brother of Guy O'Brien, better known as "Master Gee" from the hip-hop group The Sugarhill Gang, as well as television host London Reyes a.k.a. "B-Boy London" of the New York City Breakers.
Veteran actor William H. Macy makes a brief appearance as "JJ", and Chazz Palminteri makes a brief appearance as "Hood #2". Carl Anthony Payne II, who appears in a small role as a kid in the family-owned pizza shop, went on to co-star in The Cosby Show and Martin.
Producer Berry Gordy intentionally cast Sho'Nuff's entourage for a Rainbow effect using real martial artists such as André D. Brown and Janet Bloem combined with professional actors such as Lisa Löving.
Julius J. Carry III, in the role of Sho'nuff, trained in martial arts for the film, and later appeared in numerous television roles.
- The film began production on exclusive New York City locations on April 16, 1984.
- The Dojo and workout scenes were filmed at the Harlem Karate Institute of Grandmaster Ernest Hyman, Japanese Goju-Ryu, in Harlem, New York City.
- The Victory Theater on 42nd Street which was used for the scene where Sho'nuff interrupts the viewing of Enter The Dragon was an adult movie theater. Ron Van Clief choreographed the fight for this scene in which Julius J. Carry III performed his own stunts.
- Bernstein's-on-Essex, a kosher Chinese restaurant used in the film with its decor intact.
- Village East Pizza restaurant between 11th and 12th street on Ave C in lower Manhattan. (Daddy Green's);
- A Chinese warehouse on Walker Street in Manhattan (the Sum Dum Goy fortune cookie factory);
- Super Amusements in Flushing in the Queens Borough of New York City (Eddie's Video Emporium);
- An abandoned wire factory and warehouse at East 118 Street and East Side Highway in Manhattan which was used for the climatic fight between Leroy and Sho'Nuff.
- Peter Larkin's spectacular Seventh Heaven club video set was built on Camera Mart stages at 54th and 10th Avenue, a set so impressive that Diana Ross, visiting one day, promptly asked if she could buy it for her next tour.
- Barry Gordy was frequently on the set and had many of his Motown artists visit. Producer Suzanne de Passe was very hands on with the project.
The film is known for its soundtrack of the same name, featuring a bevvy of talent and highlighting the best of what hip-hop offered in the West in that time integrated with references to martial arts from the East. The music was supervised by executive producer Gordy, the founder of Motown Records. Featured in this film is a DeBarge song, "Rhythm of the Night", written by Diane Warren. The song reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard R&B charts. The film's Richard Perry-produced title theme was nominated for Worst "Original" Song at the 1985 Golden Raspberry Awards, as was Vanity's song "7th Heaven". A song that was not featured but still benefited from critical acclaim was "Upset Stomach", written and performed by Stevie Wonder. It also marked the return of Willie Hutch to Motown with the song "The Glow". Charlene (sang "I've Never Been to Me") also performed the song "Fire" in a last attempt to revive her singing career, but it never worked. The score was composed by Misha Segal. The love theme song called First Time on a Ferris Wheel was also composed by Misha Segal and performed by Smokey Robinson and Syreeta.
In 2002 a paper in the Journal of Asian American Studies applauded the strong character development of the black hero, who in the film reverses the stereotype of the typical Asian in an action film. The hero of the movie, while learning from an Asian Zen Master, learns to use his internal strength and aura to overcome obstacles.
- The Last Dragon at Box Office Mojo
- Niu, W.; Sternberg, R. (2002). "Contemporary Studies on the Concept of Creativity: the East and the West". Journal of Creative Behavior 36 (4): 269–288. doi:10.1002/j.2162-6057.2002.tb01069.x.
- "FILM: SCHULTZ DIRECTS 'LAST DRAGON'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-05-15.
- "The Last Dragon". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-05-15.
- "The Last Dragon". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2012-05-15.
- Ongiri, A. A. (2002). "‘He wanted to be just like Bruce Lee’: African Americans, Kung Fu Theater and Cultural Exchange at the Margins". Journal of Asian American Studies 5 (1): 31–40. doi:10.1353/jaas.2002.0009.
- The Last Dragon at the Internet Movie Database
- The Last Dragon at AllMovie
- The Last Dragon at Box Office Mojo
- The Last Dragon at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Last Dragon flashback website
- Fan tribute to The Last Dragon