“Who’s tha Masta?!”: Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon is 25 years old today

The Last Dragon poster

On March 22, 1985, Columbia/Tri-Star released Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon in theaters. It was a critical failure, but a financial success. Even today, the film is considered a cult classic. The story of “Bruce” Leroy and his arch enemy “Sho Nuff” have captivated audiences for 25 years.  Man, a lot of my favorite movies (Empire Strikes Back, Back to the Future, Young Guns) are celebrating their 25-30 year anniversaries this year and it’s really starting to make me feel old.

Sho Nuff(via Brass Knuckle B)
Bruce Leroy(via The Synopsis)

I saw it in the theater when it was released in 1985 and I loved it. I watched it again the other night to celebrate this 25th anniversary and I still love the movie. Obviously Julius Carry nearly steals the entire movie as Sho Nuff, but Taimak plays Bruce Leroy Green brilliantly and it’s great to see Ernie Reyes Jr in a small role as one of Leroy’s students.

The action is fun and characters are over the top, but it’s your typical tongue-in-cheek ’80s action comedy.  Vanity, who plays Laura Charles, could have been any semi-famous pop star of the time and Leroy’s brother is your typical annoying little brother.  What makes the movie for me is the final showdown between Leroy and Sho Nuff.  It’s a great battle and one I could enjoy over and over.  I mean, Sho-Nuff’s pimpin’ red tiger karate outfit might be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.  EVER.

Also fun to watch in this movie is the appearances of now famous people in small roles.  You see this in lots of movies from the ’80s.  If you pay attention, you’ll see William H Macy in a small role as JJ, Vanity’s publicist, and Chazz Palminteri as Hood #2.  You’ll also see Keshia Knight Pulliam as Leroy Green’s baby sister, Sophia.

Glen Eaton as Johnny Yu(Via esoft.in Forums)

While watching the movie this past weekend, I was reminded of Glen Eaton, the actor that plays Johnny Yu in this movie (on the right in the picture above).  He is hilarious in all of his scenes and nearly steals the movie whenever Sho-Nuff isn’t on screen.  I looked him up on IMDB and he only shows this movie and Trained to Kill in 1998 on his credits.  I’m surprised that he never received any other roles because his performance here is fantastic, especially considering this was his motion picture debut.

Another great thing about this movie is the soundtrack.

The Last Dragon soundtrack

Yes it’s cheesy, but it is an 80’s movie soundtrack. My favorite songs are the title track by Dwight David, Rhythm of the Night by DeBarge and The Glow by Willie Hutch. I have all three of these songs on my iPod when I run.  The main theme, The Last Dragon, is a great “hero” song and really pumps me up when I run.  It’s very similar to Karate Kid’s “You’re The Best Around” by Joe Esposito.  I also don’t mind 7th Heaven by Vanity, but I don’t run to it.  As a matter of fact, I only like it on the soundtrack.  Actually watching Vanity perform 7th Heaven in the movie is cringe-inducing.

Overall, this is a good, if goofy ’80s action comedy that I can still recommend 25 years later.

And, I suppose I should mention this, there are talks about remaking this movie.  So far, I know Sam Jackson is attached to play Sho-Nuff and I’ve also heard Rhianna is attached as Laura Charles.  I’m not sure how solid that info is, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.

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6 Responses to ““Who’s tha Masta?!”: Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon is 25 years old today”

  1. A Remake of “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon”???? Say it ain’t so! Actually, I would imagine that it could be badass.

    I saw Wimpy kid over the weekend and it had a trailer for KarateKid. Actually looked pretty good. Even had the awesome Esposito tune.

  2. The Last Dragon is the greatest movie of all time. Thank you for honoring this timeless classic on it’s 25th birthday!!
    I disagree with your comments on Vanity. Vanity was great as Laura Charles. She was my (and many others) first celebrity crush. My memories of the movie wouldn’t have been the same without her.

  3. this really is one of the greatest movies of all time!

  4. Man, there are a lot of films celebrating their 25th this year and they’re all fantastic. I feel as though with all these remakes, anniversaries, etc. that we’re all in some sort of giant Delorean going 88 MPH, shunting across the timescape towards endless re-run/remakes. Still, it’s going to be a heck of a ride! Haha.

  5. As a martial artist (4th Dan – Kempo) I’ve always considered this my favorite movie. It truly is a classic.

  6. Ha! Samuel L. would be perfect. He yells all his lines anyhow! LOL. This movie is so cheesy it’s almost painful, and I can’t seem to watch it without getting that stupid “Dirty Books” song in my head, but it’s gonna have to be a must-see for my kid when she gets old enough to understand it. Sho’ Nuff!

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