Combustible Celluloid
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With: Taimak, Vanity, Christopher Murney, Julius J. Carry III, Faith Prince, Leo O'Brien, Mike Starr, Jim Moody, Glen Eaton, Ernie Reyes Jr., Roger Campbell, Esther Marrow, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Jamal Mason, B.J. Barie
Written by: Louis Venosta
Directed by: Michael Schultz
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 109
Date: 03/22/1985

The Last Dragon (1985)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Feel the Beat

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed by the pioneering African-American genre filmmaker Michael Schultz (Cooley High, Car Wash, Bustin' Loose, etc.) The Last Dragon is hardly a good movie, but it gets points for camp value, and for originality; it's probably the first -- and only -- African-American martial arts musical ever made.

Leroy Green (Taimak), who is a big Bruce Lee fan, finishes his martial arts training, and his master sends him out into the world. While he searches for his next master, Leroy manages to anger the local bully Sho'nuff (Julius Carry). Worse, he incurs the wrath of video game king Eddie Arkadian (Christopher Murney) when he rescues the beautiful host of a popular music video program, Laura Charles (Vanity); Eddie had hoped to persuade her to play his girlfriend's (terrible) new video on the show. Leroy does not believe in violence, but with so many powerful enemies against him, how long can he hold out without fighting? And can he win over the more worldly Laura in the process?

The movie bogs down in the subplot with Eddie Arkadian, a twerpy, comical villain that gets far too much screen time. Not to mention that the music -- with the exception of DeBarge's hit "Rhythm of the Night" -- has aged terribly (don't miss the potentially offensive "Suki Yaki Hot Saki Sue"). On the plus side, lead actors Taimak and Vanity come to the screen with a great deal of presence and likeability. Schultz brings energy and style to both the fight scenes and the musical moments, mostly staying out of their way and avoiding fast cutting and clunky choreography. Overall, though, The Last Dragon has good intentions and there's some fun to be had. Look for William H. Macy in a small part.

For the movie's 30th anniversary in 2015, TriStar has released an excellent Blu-ray edition, with clean picture and bright sound (check out "Rhythm of the Night" now!). Bonuses include an essential commentary track by director Schultz, a new 24-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, and a trailer. In addition to the 5.1 English soundtrack, the movie's audio is offered in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

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