The Last Dragon Blu-ray review
Take life one day at a time / That’s what a wise man said to me / He said life in all its complexity / Is the ultimate test for you and me / When you walk holding your head up high / For the masters watching you from the sky / I know not what trouble lies ahead / Before you fight, use your head
If those words don’t inspire you to be in the mindset of a martial artist, then surely the accompanying montage—with its pristine kicks, punches and leaps—will. Leroy Green (Taimak, a martial artist himself) has trained for years to be called “The Last Dragon,” a title bestowed only to masters. But now that he is the reigning shogun, Leroy (who goes by Bruce Leroy, based on his admiration for Bruce Lee; note the clear nod to Lee’s iconic GAME OF DEATH outfit), surely there will be competitors.
Enter Sho’Nuff (Julius J. Carry III, who previously appeared in the curiosity THE FISH THAT SAVED PITTSBURGH), who has had enough of hearing about a nemesis who can catch bullets with his teeth. Sho’Nuff has an avid following (at least in Harlem) and openly challenges Leroy to a fight for the title. When he refuses, Sho’Nuff decides to just whoop anyone in his sight, because he’s the sort of fella that will break your ankle and then bite it.
Soon after, a subplot involving the kidnapping a VJ (remember those?) named Laura Charles (Vanity, whose introduction was in large part due to Prince; she would later appear alongside Carl Weathers and Craig T. Nelson in 1988’s ACTION JACKSON), is unmasked. This is worthless and does nothing for the inevitable showdown between Leroy and Sho’Nuff, but it does let the audience witness William H. Macy move around in a noisy jacket and Mike Starr feed a hunk of meat to a piranha.
THE LAST DRAGON might be one of the most genuinely puzzling movies of its decade. At times, the viewer is unsure if the filmmakers knew exactly what they were doing. Other times, maybe they knew too well what they were doing, which would then make THE LAST DRAGON an essential ‘80s flick (which says as much about the decade as it does its fans). And by “essential ‘80s flick,” the audience can expect hairsprayed pop stars, glittering jackets, dance sequences, techno music, ghetto blasters, a hammy cartoon villain, offensive stereotypes, corny street gangs and lines like “Kiss my Converse!” Is this stuff embarrassing or fitting?
THE LAST DRAGON is directed by cult favorite Michael Schultz (1975’s COOLEY HIGH, 1976’s CAR WASH), but it is just as associated with MoTown founder Berry Gordon, who serves as a co-producer and ensured the movie would be known as BERRY GORDON’S THE LAST DRAGON. Whoever this confounding kung-fu flick belongs to, they should be pleased it has stuck around for three decades.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. While there’s not a whole lot of dimension, the details and colors are stronger and more vibrant than they have been before on home video.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; French Mono; Portuguese Mono; Spanish Mono. Subtitles in The audio transfer nicely captures the soundtrack and sound effects.
Commentary by director Michael Schultz: Schultz offers a strong commentary in which he delves into the style, cast, fight sequences, release and more of THE LAST DRAGON. Fans will enjoy.
Return to the Dragon (24:08): This retrospective piece looks back at THE LAST DRAGON’s birth and legacy, with comments from Schultz, producer Berry Gordon, screenwriter Louis Venosta, star Taimak and more.