Back in 1985, Sho ‘Nuff was the undisputed Shogun of Harlem. He strutted the length of 125th street with his football shoulder pad armor, afro samurai topknot, kimono and Converse and no one would stand up to him. He talked so loud in the movie theater that other black folks complained. That was all before Bruce Leroy found the glow, and whupped his ass. Grab your popcorn and chopsticks, and let Berry Gordy and I regale you with the tale of The Last Dragon.
We meet “Bruce” Leroy Green when he’s at his master’s dojo- at a highrise with a view of the Empire State Building. He’s deep into a training montage where he’s chopping and catching arrows out of the air, and other kung fu moves technically referred to as “bad ass shit.” His master- named Master- says he can no longer train him. He must find a new Master. Bruce Leroy is confused, as kung fu training is his life. And all Master gives him as a clue is a fortune cookie. Only once he finds his new master can he attain “the glow,” the ultimate discipline.
So Bruce takes in a movie at the local theater, when Sho ‘Nuff, the Shogun of Harlem barges in with his entourage. He’s come to challenge Bruce Leroy, the legend, known to catch bullets in his teeth. Like I mentioned, Sho ‘Nuff talks so loud during The Chinese Connection that the theater erupts in a spontaneous uprising against him, and he whups everyone’s ever-lovin’ ass. My favorite is when a homeboy kicks him, and he catches the leg, twists his ankle, and yells “You’ll never use this foot again!!” before BITING IT. That’s a bad-ass mofo, when he’ll bite your damn feet out of pure rage.
But his challenge to Leroy goes unanswered; he just ducks under his Chinese straw hat, eating his popcorn with chopsticks, and walks out on the arms of the seats with the grace only a true kung fu master could possess.
Now cut to the annoying part of the story- since Berry Gordy produced this, we get inundated with music by DeBarge and Vanity, in the second storyline involving mobster and music producer Eddie Arkadian and his goofy girlfriend Angela, who looks like Cyndi Lauper gone to seed. Eddie wants superstar Laura Charles (Vanity, Action Jackson) under his wing, and won’t take no for an answer. Her buddy J.J.- played by William H. Macy in one of his earliest screen roles, dressed like a transvestite in a Patrick Nagel print- tries to warn her, but Eddie is relentless. He’s even got some sort of sharkmonster in a tank, to feed his enemies.
Bruce saves Laura when Eddie’s goons try to kidnap her, kicking all sorts of goombah butt across their limousines. Remember when all we needed for bad guys was some Italians from central casting and a limo? It even worked for Dirty Harry. Despite his shy and proper ways, Laura is charmed by Leroy, and you just know she’ll be making some “Rhythm of the Night” in his dojo after the end credits.
For the final showdown, Leroy dons ninja gear to infiltrate Arkadian’s lair, where he must fight all sorts of goons, including a white Mr. T Santa Claus, and of course- Sho ‘Nuff! Watching them fight in an abandoned chain and cistern factory while The Glow ricochets off their fists is a true sight to behold, and one of the most memorable cheese fights of the ’80s. Bruce Leroy is played by real martial arts instructor Taimak, and the late Julius Carry played the unforgettable Sho ‘Nuff. It’s a damn shame he can’t cameo in the tentative remake, where it looks like Samuel L. Jackson may be taking his place.
The Last Dragon is a one of a kind ’80s cheesefest capitalizing on the wake of The Karate Kid. It’s campy and silly, but always good fun. If you love old kung fu movies, or better yet corny pastiches like Big Trouble in Little China, this is the Harlem edition. If you can stand the music, it’s a blast. Remember Rockwell, the “Somebody’s Watchin’ Meeeee” guy? He does a few songs, if you wonder where he disappeared to.
Beers Required to Enjoy: 1
Could it be remade today? It is, sadly.
Quotability Rating: High, sho ’nuff!
Cheese Factor: nacho cheese eaten with chopsticks
High Points: Sho ‘Nuff! and the battles
Low Point: Eddie Arkadian is really annoying
Gratuitous Boobies: nope, but Angelina really has “headlights”