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Michael Schultz
Taimak, Vanity, Julius Carry
Writing Credits:
Louis Venosta

In New York City, a young man searches for a Master to obtain the final level of martial arts mastery known as the Glow.

Box Office:
$10 million.
Opening Weekend
$5,254,359 on 1038 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Monaural
Portuguese Dolby Monaural
Spanish Dolby Monaural
Chinese Traditional
Supplements Subtitles:
Chinese Traditional

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 8/25/2015

• Audio Commentary with Director Michael Schultz
• “Return of the Dragon” Featurette
• Trailer


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Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon [Blu-Ray] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 24, 2023)

Via movies like Enter the Dragon and TV series like Kung Fu, martial arts enjoyed a mid-1970s period of mass popularity in the US. This faded over time, but a 1985 film called Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon attempted to revive the genre – albeit with a twist.

Set in New York City, Leroy Green (Taimak) reaches a point in his martial arts training where his master (Thomas Ikeda) feels he can’t teach him anything more. This sends Leroy on a mission to find “Master Sum Dum Goy”, supposedly the one person who can teach him “the Glow”, the final step in his evolution.

However, Leroy encounters a nasty rival in “Sho’Nuff” (Julius Carry), another martial artist who refers to himself as “The Shogun of Harlem”. While Leroy pursues his destiny and deals with the threat of Sho’Nuff, he also finds himself in a romance with Laura Charles (Vanity), a VJ/singer who encounters her own issues.

Although my intro might make it sound like Last Dragon existed in a US-produced martial arts vacuum, I obviously left out the theatrical elephant in the room: 1984’s The Karate Kid. That year’s fifth-biggest grossing flick in the States, the movie became a surprise hit.

Although Kid came with a lean toward martial arts areas, I view it more as a “coming of age” film. Daniel’s journey into karate acted as the conduit for his personal journey more than anything else, and it never resembled the genre efforts of the 1970s.

On the other hand, Dragon offers a much more conscious attempt to remind us of the era of Bruce Lee and his peers, right down to the Enter the Dragon-evoking title. Of course, the 1985 film comes with its own spin and brings a much more tongue in cheek entry.

Well, to a degree, as Last Dragon never seems particularly sure how seriously it wants us to take it, and the nature of its era doesn’t help. Even though I grew up in this period, I can find it tough to recall how much of the goofiness we see here was intentional and how much was just “the 80s”.

Thus we get a mix of scenes that clearly want to pursue laughs and others that provoke chuckles accidentally. While it becomes hard to tell which is which, I won’t call all of Dragon unintentionally comedic.

I will refer to Dragon as a mess, however. Whatever goals the filmmakers aspire to achieve, they fail.

Much of Dragon feels like promotional product, honestly. Note the presence of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s name in its prominent place.

Dragon didn’t become Gordy’s first foray into film production, as he also served as executive producer for a handful of 1970s flicks. However, it still feels weird that Gordy’s name got attached to this one’s title.

For all his fame in music circles, Gordy never got known as a movie producer. I have no real idea why this flick’s title used Gordy’s name so prominently – other than his ego, I guess.

Last Dragon does go heavy on music, probably in the hopes that it’d follow in the footsteps of big-selling soundtracks like those for 1983’s Flashdance and 1984’s Footloose.

This didn’t happen. Granted, the soundtrack did sport DeBarge’s hit “Rhythm of the Night”, but so did their own album released a little earlier, so I doubt the song helped boost sales of the movie’s record much.

Nonetheless, much of Dragon feels like an extended music video – sometimes literally. It uses Laura’s gig as a VJ as an excuse to run videos, and we see a huge chunk of the DeBarge clip, for example.

I’d claim these choices grind the movie to a halt, but Dragon never generates enough momentum for these clumsy promotional scenes to disrupt anything. Though it tells a pretty simple story at its heart, it mucks up matters badly.

Dragon really should offer a straightforward tale of Leroy’s journey. Instead, it messes up the works with superfluous subplots and extraneous characters.

None of this ever comes into real focus. The flick bops from one thread to another without logic and turns into a disjointed experience.

Taimak got his role due his handsome appearance and his martial arts skills, so Dragon offered his initial foray into acting. While he exhibits a certain naïve charm and he handles the physical demands well, his performance seems just as stiff and amateurish as one might anticipate.

Other cast members fare better, but not by much. We get a befuddling mix of acting styles that don’t mesh in the least, though I do like a quick glimpse of a relatively young William H. Macy in a tiny part.

Otherwise, I find nothing notable about this clumsy mix of comedy, action, romance and music. Amateurish and oddly dull, Dragon flops.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite the movie’s inherent “80s-ness”, this presentation looked very good.

Sharpness seemed mostly strong. A few slightly soft shots appeared, but most of the flick looked pretty tight.

Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I saw no edge haloes. With a good layer of grain, noise reduction didn’t become an issue, and print flaws remained absent.

The movie featured a palette that accentuated bold colors, and the disc replicated those hues with pretty good fidelity. The tones came across as fairly bright and vivid.

Black levels also seemed deep and dense, while shadow detail usually appeared appropriately opaque. This looked like a solid transfer overall.

I also found a pleasant surprise when I listened to the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Last Dragon. While the soundfield didn’t provide a slam-bang experience, it opened up the spectrum pretty nicely.

The forward domain showed good stereo imaging for the music, and it also spread ambient effects well. The material created a decent sense of atmosphere, and elements moved cleanly across the domain.

The rear speakers added a fine general sense of setting and popped to life during occasional action scenes. Overall the soundfield worked well.

Audio quality also seemed pretty impressive for the most part, and dialogue generally sounded natural and warm. I noticed a few examples of a little edginess, but those occasions occurred infrequently, and I discerned no issues related to intelligibility.

Effects appeared clean and accurate. They came across as well defined and showed no issues related to distortion.

The music seemed largely bright and lively, and the mix of score and songs also demonstrated nice dynamics considering the age of the material. This was a more than solid track for a flick from 1985.

A few extras appear, and we find an audio commentary from director Michael Schultz. He provides a running, screen-specific look at how he came to the project, budget issues and rewrites, cast and performances, sets and locations, stunts and action, music, and related topics.

For the movie’s first act or so, Schultz delivers a pretty good look at movie subjects. However, he loses steam as he goes.

That makes this a spotty track, and one with some weird goofs. Schultz gets Vanity’s Prince-related career path wrong and also thinks George Lucas took inspiration from Chinese martial arts movies, not Kurosawa flicks. Schultz delivers a decent take on his own film but this still turns into an up and down discussion.

In addition to the film’s trailer, a featurette called Return of the Dragon runs 24 minutes, eight seconds. It provides info from Schultz, executive producer Berry Gordy, screenwriter Louis Venosta, soundtrack producer Kerry Gordy, Urban Action Showcase founder Demetrius Angelo, and actors Taimak, Henry Yuk, Lisa Dalton and Michael Chin.

“Return” covers the movie’s origins and development, cast and performances, story/characters, music, sets and locations, action scenes, and the film’s release/legacy. We get some basics but the program comes with too much happy talk to give us anything especially informative.

Campy, disjointed and nearly devoid of entertainment value, Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon flops. Nothing about it connects, so it turns into a messy and cheesy affair. The Blu-ray comes with positive picture and audio as well as a few bonus materials. Fans will like this solid Blu-ray, but I can’t find much about the movie to enjoy.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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