Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon

Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon

Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon

1985.  Directed by Michael Schultz

One of the greatest American films of the 80's, The Last Dragon is a neo fairy tale that transposes the usual Asian infused martial arts story with African American talent.  Filled with an amazing soundtrack, legendary lines, and an outright amazing story of the hero rising to the challenge, this is pure cinematic magic from start to finish.  

Bruce Leroy (played by Taimak) is a martial arts student seeking enlightenment,. The obstacle to his quest is Sho Nuff, the Shogun of Harlem, played by the legendary Julius J. Carry III.  Along the way, he falls for Laura Charles (played by Vanity), a music video diva 

Filled with a veritable who's who of 80's film, The Last Dragon boasts cameos by William H. Macy, Chazz Palminteri, Jim Moody, and Ernie Reyes Jr.  The entire cast is a just a wonderful amalgam of talent, often juxtaposing Asian and African American talent to hilarious and heart warming results.  

James Contner's cinematography is stunning, capturing New York with a popcorn mystical vibe.  Robert De Mora's costumes are top notch, managing to harness the traditional kung fu aesthetic while achieving a punk rock 80's grandeur.  One of the things that really stood out for me was Christopher Holmes editing.  The action scenes are cut very well, allowing the viewer to comfortably navigate the final confrontation with ease.  

The Last Dragon is a film that isn't going to make you think deep thoughts, but it will make you smile.  It's a love story, Harlem's response to Streets of Fire and it works on every level.   The film builds a fantasy version of the urban jungle and populates it with larger than life extremes that fit seamlessly into the narrative.  There are gods at work on the streets, choosing different fighters as their avatars in a DeBarge drenched Soul Train homage.   

The final combat sequence is pure bliss.  From Ernie Reyes Jr.'s scene stealing performance to Glen Eaton's amazing development as the protege', it's just a joy to watch.   Seeing The Last Dragon confront his fears, supported by his students, brings an instant smile to your face and lifts your mood.   Sure, it's cheesy fun, but it's well done.   Leroy vs. Sho Nuff is one of the greatest paint by numbers examples of heroic triumph in an action film and it even holds up today amidst the ocean of cgi clones.  You not only care about Leroy and his compatriots, you straight up clap when The Glow finally makes an appearance.  

Highly recommend for a no holds barred smile inducing cinematic experience!

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