You know, I’m willing to bet that there is not a single kid that was alive in the 80’s who did not see this movie at least once. The first time I saw this movie, I was living in Birmingham at the time and it was the network television premier of the movie. I only caught the last half hour or so (basically, the good part) but I was absolutely fascinated by it. So get ready to find out who is the master as I watch today’s movie, The Last Dragon.
The plot: Leory Green (a.k.a. Bruce Leroy) is training in martial arts while his master is shooting arrows at him. When Leroy catches a new arrow, as opposed to breaking it like he did the others. his master says that Leroy has touched the final level of martial arts, called The Last Dragon, and that Leroy should be able to achieve “The Glow”. When Leroy looks upset after the master says he is no longer Leroy’s master, his master gives him a medal, that belonged to Bruce Lee, and tells him to seek a master named Sum Dum Goy, who lives there in New York. Later, Leroy is at a movie theater showing Enter The Dragon when a martial arts gang, led by the self proclaimed Shogun of Harlem, Sho’Nuff, enters the theater. When Sho’Nuff sees Leroy, he challenges him to a fight in order to prove who is the master, but Leroy refuses to fight. Some of the other movie patrons get tired of Sho’Nuff and try to throw him out of the theater but Sho’Nuff beats them all and, seeing Leroy leaving the theater, shouts out to Leroy that he will get him. Meanwhile, Eddie Arkadian, the “video game king”, is attempting to get his girlfriend’s video played on a popular dance show called 7th Heaven, hosted by Laura Charles. When Laura refuses to play the video, Eddie sends some of his men to kidnap her but they are thwarted by Leroy, who had been walking by. After making sure she is ok, Leroy hails a cab for Laura, then disappears but as Laura gets in the cab, she notices the medal on the ground and picks it up. The next day, Leroy is teaching at his dojo when Sho’Nuff and his gang show up and try to provoke Leroy into a fight, but when they threaten to hurt Johnny, one of his students, Leroy bows to Sho’Nuff, enabling Sho’Nuff to kick him in the face. Later, Leroy is eating breakfast with his family and sees an add for Laura’s show, and tries to get his little brother Richie to take him to see Laura. Richie takes Leroy to the studio then has him wait outside while he tries to sneak inside. While he is waiting outside, Leroy sees Laura being kidnapped and finds a clipboard, showing where she is being taken. Leroy rescues Laura and escorts her back to her place, where she gives him back the medal and tries to find out more about him but Leroy, not sure how to act around her, quickly leaves. The next day, Leroy continues to search for Sum Dum Goy, eventually finding a fortune cookie factory bearing that name, but the three men working at factory mock Leroy and say that the master won’t see him. Meanwhile, Sho’Nuff and his men show up at Leroy’s family’s pizza place and proceed to trash it as a way of leaving a message for Leroy. Leroy gets there just as Sho’Nuff and his men leave, and Richie accuses Leroy of being a coward and says it is all his fault. Leroy goes back to his dojo to work out his frustrations, when Laura shows up and tries to get Leroy to be her bodyguard, but he turns her down. Eddie is busy hiring a group of thugs in order to take out Leroy, then approaches Sho’Nuff, who refuses the money as he just wants to be able to fight Leroy. Leroy goes to apologize to Laura, who takes him to her studio and plays a video full of clips from various Bruce Lee movies. Laura uses the video as a chance to kiss Leroy, which he returns, but when a clip from The Chinese Connection plays, Leroy figures out a way to get into the fortune cookie factory and leaves. Richie, who had seen Leroy and Laura kiss, yells out about Leroy leaving when suddenly, Eddie and his men show up and grab Laura and Richie. Angela, Eddie’s former girlfriend, goes to Leroy’s dojo and tells Johnny to warn Leroy about Eddie’s plan. Leroy disguises himself as a pizza delivery boy and makes it inside the factory, but after messing with Leroy for a bit, the men escort him back outside. Leroy kicks in the door and demands to see the master and the show Leroy that the “master” is actually a computer that prints out the fortunes for the cookies. Leroy heads back to his former master’s house and asks why he sent him on the fool’s quest, and the master gives him a fortune cookie without a fortune, saying it is all Leroy needs to obtain the golden glow. He then explains that Leroy needs to look in one place to find the master. After returning to his dojo, Leroy begins grabbing various weapons and prepares to head to 7th Heaven, and locks Johnny in a weapon closet to keep him from interfering. Leroy heads to 7th Heaven and heads to the dance floor, where Eddie’s face appears on the video screen, and Leroy finds himself surrounded by Eddie’s hired goons. Leroy starts beating the men, but when he starts to get overwhelmed, Johnny and the rest of the students arrive from the dojo arrive to help out. Seeing things turning against him, Eddie takes Laura and leads Leroy to a warehouse next door. Inside, Leroy faces off against some of Sho’Nuff’s men before coming face to face with Sho’Nuff. The two men face off, and Leroy starts to get the upperhand but suddenly, Sho’Nuff’s hands begin to glow with a red energy and he proceeds to beat Leroy. Sho’Nuff proceeds to taunt Leroy, by having him say that Sho’Nuff is the master, but Leroy finally understands what his master was trying to tell him, and declares himself to be the master, as his body begins to exhibit The Golden Glow. With his newfound confidence and power, Leroy is able to finally beat Sho’Nuff. Eddie then appears and fires his gun at Leroy, but Leroy catches the bullet with his teeth, then uses a hook to suspend Eddie from the ceiling until the police arrive. Back at 7th Heaven, Laura looks on as Richie, Johnny, and the other dojo students dance on the floor when she sees Leroy arrive and yell out over the music that he wants her to show him some moves. Laura heads down and kisses Leroy while Richie tells one of his friends that Leroy is the master.
The Last Dragon was met with mostly negative reviews from the critics, holding a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Some considered it too juvenile and campy while others liked the character development of Leroy in the movie. The movie was a box office success, earning over $25 million off a $10 million budget and would later earn cult status when it hit the video market.
Could there possibly be a cooler villain from an 80’s movie than Sho’Nuff. This movie is as much fun to watch now as it was 30 years ago. The acting was totally over the top, especially Taimak (Leroy) as he tries to act like a “stereotypical Asian”. The story was pretty decent and kind of helped make a “classic martial arts” movie plot fit better in a modern setting. The fight scenes were good, but that is to be expected considering many of the fighters had been practicing martial arts for a while, except for Julius Carry (Sho’Nuff) who trained in martial arts for this role. Speaking of Sho’Nuff, he is probably one of the most memorable villains of all time and his fight with Leroy was both fantastic and ridiculous at the same time. I liked the whole “glowing” aspect in the last fight as it had a sort of Star Wars / sci-fi feel to the fight. One of those movie that you can sit down and enjoy watching no matter which part it is on.
Rating: 4 out of 5