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|
|Editing 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, Julius J. Carry III, Chris Murney, 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, a teenage martial arts student named Leroy Green (often referred to as "Bruce Leroy"), with dreams of becoming a great martial artist like his idol Bruce Lee, is training with his master (Thomas Ikeda) where he puts to the test to catch a blue arrow. After randomly selecting the blue arrow, the master humorously scolds Leroy only to tell that he reached 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. His master gives him a medal to signify his achievements and releases him to embark on his journey to becoming the "Last Dragon" and wielding the power of "The Glow" if he can discover Master Sum Dum Goy.
At a movie theater showing a Bruce Lee film, Sho'nuff (Julius J. Carry III), the Shogun of Harlem, and his gang interrupt the showing, and order the viewers to leave. Sho'nuff grabs ahold of a child who directs him to Leroy watching the movie, and confronts Leroy over the prophecy that Leroy will defeat Sho'nuff. After an audience member tells Sho'nuff to shut up, Sho'nuff engages in a martial arts battle with several audience members, and victoriously proclaims he will defeat Leroy. Wanting to get a hold of 7th Heaven video host Laura Charles (Vanity), Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney) sends his men to kidnap her after a taping of her show only to be rescued by Leroy. Leroy easily defeats the thugs and departs, but loses his medal in the process. Arkadian's men return to tell him that the plan failed, in which Eddie instructs them to get her in one piece. While Leroy is training pupils at a martial arts school, Sho'nuff and his gang break in, and apprehend Johnny Yu (Glen Eaton) forcing Leroy to bow down before him. After Leroy bows down, Sho'nuff and his gang leave threatening that Leroy will have to face him one day.
At the breakfast table, Leroy's family sees an advertisement for Laura's dance competition. Begging his brother Richie (Leo O'Brien) at their father's pizza restaurant to take him to the competition in order to see Laura, Richie agrees as long as he does not tell anyone there that he is his brother. When they arrive to the dance competition outside, Richie leaves in order to sneak in through the back leaving Leroy alone. While waiting, he sees Laura kidnapped in a Motion Video Production car, and a plate reveals that the men work for Eddie Arkadian Productions. There, Eddie asks Laura to promote his girlfriend Angela Viracco's (Faith Prince) music video on her program, but Laura declines the offer. Suddenly, Leroy breaks through rescuing Laura in the process, and at her place, Laura returns Leroy's medal.
At the pizza restaurant, Sho'nuff and his gang threaten the Green family over Leroy's unwillingness to face him by destroying the restaurant. When Leroy sees the destruction, he trains aggressively at the gym with Johnny until he is interrupted by Laura who wants him to become her bodyguard. Leroy declines the offer feeling he must continue training. Back at Eddie Arkadian Productions, Eddie again promises to make Angela a star as soon as he gets his revenge on Leroy. Wanting not to hurt anyone in the process of achieving stardom, Angela leaves Eddie. At Sho'nuff's place, Eddie hires Sho'nuff to defeat Leroy. Meanwhile, Angela tells Johnny that Eddie is looking to get back at Leroy.
On a date, Laura takes Leroy to the 7th Heaven studio where she shows him clips of Bruce Lee films, and shortly after, kiss romantically angering Richie, who managed to sneak in from the back. When Leroy leaves Laura to talk to Master Sum Dum Goy from three Asian teenagers, Eddie kidnaps Laura and Richie. There, he discovers that Master Sum Ting Go is actually a computer, and confronts his former master whom indirectly tells him that he is the master. Leroy returns to the gym to prepare himself to face Sho'nuff, and when he returns to the 7th Heaven studio, he is confronted by several fighters whom he all defeats with the help of Johnny, his brother, and Leroy's pupils. Using Laura as bait, Eddie leads Leroy to an old apartment complex where he faces off against Sho'nuff in a brutal battle. At first, Sho'nuff overcomes Leroy using "The Glow", and dives Leroy's head in water several times attempting to force him to proclaim he is the Master. Through several flashbacks, Leroy remembers that he is the Master achieving the Glow, and finally defeats Sho'nuff.
Shortly after, Leroy easily defeats Eddie, and ties him up where he is soon arrested by two police officers. Laura is returned to the studio for another taping of the show where Leroy arrives, and the two romantically kiss. Unashamed by his brother, Richie tells 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 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, 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.
In 2008, a remake of the film was announced, with Samuel L. Jackson assuming the role of Sho'nuff. John Davis of Davis Entertainment and Gordy's son Kerry Gordy, along with the RZA were set to produce. Penning the screenplay as well as producing was Dallas Jackson, who heads up the urban family label DJ Classicz with Davis.
- 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.
- Simmons, Leslie (2008-10-30). "Samuel L. Jackson vs. the 'Dragon'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-12-14.
- 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