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The Last Dragon (sometimes listed as Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon) is a 1985 comedic martial arts film produced by Rupert Hitzig for Berry Gordy and directed by Michael Schultz.[4] The film stars Taimak, Vanity, Julius J. Carry III, Chris Murney, Keshia Knight Pulliam, and Faith Prince. Choreography was done by Lester Wilson and Lawrence Leritz.

The Last Dragon
A man alone on a street, wearing white, he is kicking high in the air. The cityscape fills the background, in the sky on the left is the face of a woman, and on the left a man punching upwards, his fist like a star.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Schultz
Produced by
Written byLouis Venosta
Starring
Music byBruce Miller
Misha Segal
CinematographyJames A. Contner
Edited byChristopher Holmes
Production
company
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release date
  • March 22, 1985 (1985-03-22)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$10 million[2]
Box office$33 million[3]

The Last Dragon takes cues from blaxploitation, writer Venosta admitted his intention: “There really should be a young black kid superhero-type figure who kids can look up to.”[5]

It was released in theatres by TriStar Pictures on March 22, 1985. The film was a financial success despite a mixed reception by critics,[6][7] and is considered a cult classic.

PlotEdit

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.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

Vanity had just left Purple Rain. Berry Gordy signed her to a four-picture contract.[8]

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. Ernie Reyes, Jr., martial artist and actor, made his film debut at the age of twelve in this film. Julius J. Carry III, in the role of Sho'nuff, trained in martial arts for the film. Berry 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 even Wesley Snipes auditioned for the role as did Laurence Fishburne & Mario Van Peebles. A then little known Denzel Washington auditioned for both the roles of Leroy Green & Sho’Nuff. 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 Julius J. Carry III performed his own stunts. Bernstein's-on-Essex, a kosher Chinese restaurant used in the film with its decor intact.

MusicEdit

The film has a soundtrack of the same name.[9][citation needed] 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 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.

ReceptionEdit

The film's total gross is reported as $33 million against a production budget of $10 million, according to box office analysis website the-numbers.com.[10] It received a mixed response from critics. Based upon 17 reviews, it boasts a 59% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 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."[11]

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.[12]

In popular cultureEdit

The 2018 film Sorry to Bother You features Tessa Thompson's character Detroit reenacting dialogue from the film as part of a performance art piece.

Rapper Busta Rhymes dresses as Sho'Nuff in the music video for the 1997 hip hop song Dangerous.

On the Vinnie Paz song Nosebleed Rapper R.A. the Rugged Man says "I'm Bruce Leroy, you're Eddie Arcadian" referencing the hero and the villain in the film.

In an episode of the adult animated series Lazor Wulf, the title character expresses his gratitude towards the film and its cast.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "THE LAST DRAGON".
  2. ^ "The Last Dragon". the-numbers.com. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  3. ^ "The Last Dragon". the-numbers.com. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  4. ^ "The Last Dragon". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
  5. ^ Herbert, Jeremy. "The Martial Arts Blaxploitation Lunacy of Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon". www.crookedmarquee.com. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
  6. ^ "The Last Dragon". the-numbers.com. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  7. ^ "The Last Dragon". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  8. ^ 'I have big dreams of my own' Vanity, formerly D.D. Winters, has left Prince to do it her way Lacey, Liam. The Globe and Mail; Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]Dec 20, 1984: E.1.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "The Last Dragon". the-numbers.com. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  11. ^ https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_last_dragon
  12. ^ 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.

External linksEdit