'The Last Dragon': THR's 1985 Review
On March 22, 1985, Tri-Star unveiled the PG-13 pop musical The Last Dragon, featuring a soundtrack that included Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson, in theaters nationwide. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:
Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon is a fun, frisky R&B/pop musical with touches of such recent hits as Purple Rain and The Karate Kid, but heavily sugar-coated with the glossy style of video music-movies like Flashdance and Footloose.
The story of a young, black martial arts student (Taimak) who falls in love with a sultry vidjockey (Vanity) while searching for the perfect master, the film seems almost certain to attract a large audience due to its slick mix of kicks, quips and the obligatory dose of dance-oriented music clips.
While Dragon plainly owes a large debt to both Karate Kid and Purple Rain, this Tri-Star-distributed production settles for a mindless plot filled with low-brow humor rather than attempting any sort of ponderous message-mongering. A definite crowd pleaser with a good-natured if light-handed tone, the picture relies largely on sassy street jive, numerous below-the-belt jabs, and old-fashioned slapstick to provide the laughs.
When the movie opens, a Japanese martial arts instructor (Thomas Ikeda) is concluding his lessons with strident pupil Taimak, whose character Leroy is frequently referred to as (ugh) "Bruce Lee-roy." The student has "touched" the final level of his discipline, but to maintain the ultimate level he must find his perfect master and "feel the glow" envelop his body.
Soon afterward, Leroy is sitting in a rowdy, uptown movie theater eating popcorn with his chopsticks and watching Enter the Dragon. All of a sudden, in marches "the baddest, low-down mo-fo around," the dreaded "Shogun of Harlem" called — what else? — Sho' Nuff. Looking like some Bootsy Collins clone accompanied by a league of Road Warrior type metal-punkers, Sho' Nuff challenges Leroy to a fight in the movie house, but our hero slips out the side door while the Harlem hassler beats up other filmgoers.
To further the action even more, a Danny DeVito-esque video game hoodlum named Eddie (Chris Murney) is trying to get his girlfriend Angela (played by Faith Prince as an aging Cyndi Lauper) onto Vanity's music clip TV show. When Vanity refuses to show Angela's video on TV, Eddie threatens her and Leroy comes in to save the day and win the sexy veejay's heart. Not exactly a David Lean script but, hey, it's fast-paced with lots of laughs.
Though the humor in Dragon often falls flat (a Chinese fortune cookie factor is named "Sum Dum Goy," for instance) and the music is hardly memorable, the movie is a real charmer, full of heart and a lot of soul. And where else could you see old kung-fu footage intercut with a bass heavy R&B tune to create the first-ever Bruce Lee music video? — Jeffrey Ressner, originally published on March 25, 1985.