When harking back for a movie to write about, a couple childhood faves came to mind; but a trip to the local pharmacy was the deciding factor. While checking out, there at eye level in a movies-for-cheap DVD carousel, as fate (or Berry Gordy) would have it, was “The Last Dragon.” And so it was (to-be) written.
Produced by the Motown music man, this kung fu-themed 1985 movie was very likely Gordy’s answer to (or capitalizing on) 1984’s martial arts-themed “Karate Kid” — but with an arguably-better soundtrack (due respect to Bill Conti and Banarama, but I mean Gordy had the likes of Stevie Wonder, DeBarge and… oh yeah, Motown at his disposal).
Newcomers Taimak and Vanity (whose real names are less believable than their character names) star as Leroy Green, the young kung fu prodigy searching for a master and the ultimate power of “the glow,” and Laura Charles, a video/dance show host/singer, who – you guessed it – becomes his damsel in distress/ love interest. (Vanity seems like someone Prince would have dated — and yes, he did; she sang “Nasty Girl.”)
On his journey, “Bruce Leroy” (dubbed so by students) unwittingly encounters some bad guys (one white, one black) and some even worse fashion sense (white socks & black slippers, a yellow & black jumpsuit, the list goes on) — even for the ‘80s. His nemeses include self-proclaimed “Video Game King” gangster Eddie Arkadian (think Crazy Eddie meets George Costanza) — who is really more Looney Tunes’ Rocky and Mugsy-gangster than Tony Soprano-gangster. And self-proclaimed “Shogun of Harlem” (yep, really his character name:) Sho’Nuff (think Nick Ashford meets Busta Rhymes) — who has an affinity for his name and shoulderwear. Sho’Nuff throws down the “I’ll get you, Gadget!” gauntlet to Leroy at a Bruce Lee movie screening, then at his dojo and then again at his parents’ pizza place. (Rhymes actually does a too-convincing homage to his fictional kung fu counterpart in the “Dangerous” video.)
Amazingly enough, for the borderline exploitation-style film “The Last Dragon” turns out to be — with over-the-top characters, cheesy dialogue, almost-full music videos worked into the script, stereotypical humor, precocious fighting/ dancing kids — it actually boasts early roles for notable performers like Faith Prince, William H. Macy, Chazz Palminteri and Keshia Knight (not yet-Pulliam).
No longer in month-long, heavy TV rotation as I watched in the good old days of HBO, “The Last Dragon” is apparently available at your local pharmacy. But, if you can’t bring yourself to pay bargain-bin price for this not-so-cult not-so-classic, and you don’t even want to be seen (or registered online) renting it, you can watch it in full at Crackle.
Go to the videotape and Watch The Last Dragon on Crackle.