Berry Gordy founded Motown Records in the late 50’s and created some of the best music the world has ever heard. In the 70’s, he started producing movies and they were some of the worst crap fests the world has ever seen. (Remember The Wiz?) The Last Dragon was Gordy’s final film production and it’s a freaking mess. Although the premise is sound and it does offer up some (unintentionally) hilarious moments, it’s pretty much a disaster.
The plot has a kung fu student named Bruce Leroy (I swear to you by the blood of Christ that’s his real name) played by a guy called Taimak (I swear to you by the blood of Christ that’s his real name) who goes to the big city and falls in love with a rock video VJ (Vanity from Action Jackson). While watching Enter the Dragon in an inner city theater, Bruce Leroy runs afoul of Sho Nuff, the Shogun of Harlem (I swear to you by the blood of Christ that’s his real name) who challenges him to a fight. Of course, Leroy ducks him for half the movie until finally going toe to toe with him for the climax, in which both fighters start glowing like kerosene heaters and when they punch each other, sparks fly out of their chest.
There’s also clips from two other Bruce Lee movies, a full DeBarge video, lots of breakdancing, and some truly hideous 80’s fashions in there too. All of which could have been enormously entertaining, but the trouble is there’s an annoyingly gratuitous gangster villain who tries to muscle in on Vanity’s VJ racket that totally undermines the movie and brings things to a screeching halt every time he shows his ugly mug.
Despite the numerous missteps the film makes, there are still some things to admire about it. First and foremost is the character of Sho Nuff, who looks like Rick James’ psychotic brother on steroids. As portrayed by Julius J. (The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.) Carry, Sho Nuff is easily the most memorable thing about this mess (he says stuff like “Kiss my Converse!”) and is one of the nuttiest screen villains of the 80’s. Had the film just featured Sho Nuff as the sole villain and gotten rid of the greasy gangster, The Last Dragon could’ve been a classic in the same vein as No Retreat, No Surrender, but as it is, it’s only slightly more entertaining than Gymkata. And at 109 minutes, it’s really about 29 minutes longer than it should’ve been to boot.
Still, any movie that features not one but TWO talentless one-named scrubs is still worth watching if only for curiosity’s sake. You can also have fun spotting the soon to be famous William H. Macy and Chazz Palminteri paying the rent in supporting roles too. Overall, The Last Dragon maybe dumber than a bowl of egg drop soup, but it’s still the best Blaxploitation Kung Fu Breakdancing Musical of the 80’s.
The white gangster, annoying as he may be, gets the best line of the movie when he says, “A .45 will put an end to all this kung fu crap!”