The Last Dragon
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|The Last Dragon|
|Directed by||Michael Schultz|
|Written by||Louis Venosta|
|Cinematography||James A. Contner|
|Edited by||Christopher Holmes|
|Music by||Bruce Miller |
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Box office||$33 million|
The Last Dragon (sometimes listed as Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon) is a 1985 American martial arts comedy film produced by Rupert Hitzig for Berry Gordy and directed by Michael Schultz. The film stars Taimak, Vanity, Julius Carry, Christopher Murney, Keshia Knight Pulliam, and Faith Prince. Choreography was created by Lester Wilson and Lawrence Leritz.
Set in New York City, the movie follows a martial artist named Leroy Green (also known as "Bruce Leeroy"), who has dreams of becoming a great martial artist like his idol Bruce Lee. His master explains that he has reached the final level of martial arts accomplishment known as "The Last Dragon." Martial artists who reach this final level are said to be able to concentrate such mystical energy into their hands that they begin to glow. Only a true martial arts master would be able to exhibit "The Glow" over his entire body. Leroy doesn't fully understand and, in possession of a medal supposedly belonging to Bruce Lee, Leroy embarks upon a spiritual journey to find Master Sum Dum Goy, whom his master claims can help Leroy unlock the power of "The Glow."
Another martial artist, Sho'nuff (also known as "The Shogun of Harlem") sees Leroy as the only obstacle to being acknowledged as the true master of martial arts. Leroy refuses to fight him and a furious Sho'nuff vows that he will defeat Leroy. Sho'nuff and his gang later break in and assault Johnny Yu, one of the students at Leroy's martial arts school, demanding that Leroy bow before Sho'nuff. Finally, Sho'nuff and his gang attempt to send a message to Leroy by destroying the Green family pizza restaurant.
Meanwhile, video arcade mogul Eddie Arkadian sends his men to kidnap 7th Heaven VJ Laura Charles in the hopes of getting his girlfriend Angela Viracco's new music video featured on her show. The kidnap attempt is thwarted by Leroy who easily fends off the thugs. He loses his medal during the struggle, which Laura recovers. Later, Leroy witnesses Laura being kidnapped by Arkadian's brutish henchman Rock. A clue left behind reveals that the kidnappers work for Eddie Arkadian Productions.
Laura refuses to promote Angela's video on her program, but as Arkadian's men prepare to coerce her by force, Leroy suddenly bursts into the room clothed as a Ninja and rescues Laura once again. Back at her apartment, Laura gratefully returns Leroy's medal. Consumed with vengeance, Arkadian hires Sho'nuff to defeat Leroy and takes control of the 7th Heaven studio, capturing Laura and Leroy's younger brother, Richie, who has snuck in hoping to woo Laura.
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 only a computer churning out cookie fortunes. Leroy consults his former master for answers, but his master suggests that Leroy has known the answers all along.
Not wanting anyone to get hurt in the process of achieving her stardom, Angela leaves Arkadian and asks Johnny to warn Leroy about his plan. As Leroy returns to 7th Heaven, he is ambushed by an army of violent thugs hired by Arkadian. 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. During the battle, Sho'nuff reveals his ability to use "The Glow," his hands pulsating with a red aura, and beats Leroy viciously before attempting to force him to acknowledge Sho'nuff as "The Master." As recent events flash before Leroy's eyes, he realizes that his former Master was correct and that everything he needed to achieve the "Final Level" was within him all along. His entire body bathed in the sublime golden light of "The Glow," Leroy uses his newfound power to defeat Sho'nuff.
Arkadian appears and fires a single bullet which Leroy catches between his teeth before detaining Arkadian for the police. Laura and Leroy are reunited at the studio where the two kiss.
- Taimak as Leroy Green
- Vanity as Laura Charles
- Julius Carry as Sho'nuff / The Shogun of Harlem
- Christopher Murney as Eddie Arkadian
- Leo O'Brien as Richie Green
- Faith Prince as Angela Viracco
- Glen Eaton as Johnny Yu
- Thomas Ikeda as Leroy's master
- Jim Moody as Daddy Green
- Mike Starr as Rock
- Lisa Loving as Sho's Woman #3
- Ernie Reyes Jr. as Tai
- Queen 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
- Jeffrey Dawson as Security Guard
The Last Dragon began production in New York City locations on April 16, 1984. This was the first acting role for Taimak, a then-19-year-old black belt who learned to act on the set of this picture. Reyes, martial artist and actor, made his film debut at the age of twelve in this film. Carry, in the role of Sho'nuff, trained in martial arts for the film. 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.[clarification needed]Billy Blanks was at one point considered for the role of Leroy Green as was Wesley Snipes, Mario Van Peebles, Laurence Fishburne and even Denzel Washington.
Notable film locations include the Harlem Karate Institute of Grandmaster Ernest Hyman, Japanese Goju-Ryu, in Harlem, New York City where the Dojo and workout scenes were filmed. The Victory Theater on 42nd Street, which was an adult movie theatre, was used for the scene where Sho'nuff interrupts the viewing of Enter the Dragon. Ron Van Clief choreographed the fight for this scene in which Carry performed his own stunts. Bernstein's-on-Essex, a kosher Chinese restaurant used in the film with its decor intact.
The film has a soundtrack of the same name. The music was supervised by executive producer Gordy. 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 performed the song "Fire" for the soundtrack.
The score was composed by Segal. The love theme song called "First Time on a Ferris Wheel" was also composed by Segal and performed by Smokey Robinson and Syreeta.
The film's total gross is reported as $33 million against a production budget of $10 million. It received a mixed response from critics. Based upon 20 reviews, it boasts a 55% critics approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and an 86% audience score based on over 10,000 user ratings. The site's consensus is reads: "The Last Dragon is a flamboyant genre mashup brimming with style, romance, and an infectious fondness for kung fu, but audiences may find the tonal whiplash more goofy than endearing."
Neil Gaiman reviewed The Last Dragon for Imagine magazine, and stated that "Will black Kung Fu whiz 'Bruce' Leroy find The Master, defeat wicked Eddie Arcadian, beat Sho-Nuff ('The Shogun of Harlem'), rescue the lovely Laura (Vanity), outsmart the jive-talking Chinese fortune-cookie people, and learn how to get down and boogie? Very probably."
In 2002, a paper in the Journal of Asian American Studies applauded the strong character development of the black hero, who reverses the stereotype of the typical Asian in an action film. The hero, while learning from an Asian Zen master, learns to use his internal strength and aura to overcome obstacles.
In popular culture
The season 3 finale of Insecure involved Molly surprising Issa by taking her to an outdoor screening of The Last Dragon.
Wrestler Naomi revealed her "Feel the Glow" tagline is inspired by The Last Dragon, as she stated in an interview: "I was always inspired by the story of Bruce Leeroy and how he didn’t initially believe in himself but the Glow and the power was in him the whole time," Naomi said. "He just needed to believe it. It reminded me of so many spaces I've been in where I was 'the only' and felt like I needed to adapt to what everyone else was doing instead of just walking to the beat of my own drum."
In an episode of the adult animated series Lazor Wulf, the title character expresses his gratitude towards the film and its cast.
In "Natural History", the eighth episode of the sixth season of the TV show How I Met Your Mother, Barney stands up and shouts, "Who's the Master Leroy!" after it is revealed that his story was true.
On the 2020 song "I'm a Joestar", Open Mike Eagle says "He got a glow like Sho'Nuff from Last Dragon".
In the 2020 film Raya and the Last Dragon Sisu, the titular dragon, declares that she has the glow as an apparent homage.
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