If a movie sticks in your brain-pan, sits in your DVD collection, and is one you break out regularly (like once a month at minimum regularly,) then it's a legend. If it's a family favorite that everyone in your house enjoys, quotes all the same parts for, and laughs at the same moments every time they watch it, then it is celluloid gold. If your movie has 80's music full of R&B/Hip Hop Motown glory, the Shogun of Harlem, plenty of martial arts, campy plot twisting, and the gorgeous Vanity, then it fits such descriptions. Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon is without a doubt one of the more campy movies that bombed in the 80's, but I have found that the movies that bomb are usually household favorites for my family. This movie just happens to be number one on our re-watch list and for very good reason. The Last Dragon is by far and away one of the best movies ever created. It is "The Master."
A martial arts master trudging through the streets of Harlem looking for the one person to teach him to be the ultimate in the universe. That alone is just golden. Leroy gets sidetracked, however, when he has to save Laura from Arcadian's thugs- repeatedly- as the mogul attempts to force her to play his girlfriend's music video on her V-Jay hour. Add this story, Leroy's personal journey, the brewing love between Leroy and Laura, and the need of Sho' Nuff to decimate Leroy at every other turn, and you have one very busy movie. The amazing thing is that all of these sub-plots weave together. They all find their way onto the same episodic freeway, interweaving into each other's paths as if meant to be because hey, they were meant to be. By the finale of the film each plot has come together in one grandiose explosion of a super-story that will leave every watcher supremely satisfied.
This movie was engineered by Motown music mogul Berry Gordy, who for decades couldn't bring in a new artist or create a new song without it turning to solid gold. The movie, as a result, was not a regular martial arts flick. It's an R&B, uptown funk-filled journey of 80's style grooves that range from DeBarge to Charlene to songs by Vanity herself. There are martial arts fight sequences that are very cheesy, but as some are meant to be that way I take them for the fun that they are. Yet, when you have an epic martial arts battle between good and evil in the middle of an 80's dance club, complete with neon lights in the floor and walls and wide-screen tv's behind the combatants playing music videos during the entire fight? I'm sorry, how can you not choke down gallons of popcorn with a huge grin on your face while challenging your inner 80's Billy Idol and start screaming "More more more?"
The soundtrack as I mentioned above is worth playing over and over. Vanity's tribute to her club "7th Heaven" is raspy and fierce and at the same time utterly playful. Willie Hutch's "The Glow" is full of beautiful 80's synth beats and that gorgeous 80's hip-hop feel that would make even the laziest athlete want to get up and start working out again. For me the highlight was DeBarge's "Rhythm of The Night." That song is one my three favorite songs in history. Not from that decade, but in literal history. I smile and feel better about life every time I hear it and to see its music video featured in the movie as well just makes me all kinds of giddy every time I watch this flick. I feel like a kid again.
It's the best 80's flick that exists. Sho' Nuff.
Christina Sizemore is trained in only four things: writing, fighting, paranormal investigating, and being a mom. At this point in her life she truly feels that she is not qualified to attempt to learn any new field. A twenty year martial artist, mother of three, and writer who is working on the publication of her first book titled “Finding Your Way: A Guide To Your Path In The Martial Arts,” she spends her days working out, writing, making fanvids, going to DragonCon, and playing board games/video games/out in the yard with her kids and husband who are just as geeky as she is. She is convinced that one day her skills will be of assistance in the Zombie Apocalypse and that while she is of no use in the kitchen, she can Buffy that zombie for ya or teach you the best way to get the blood stains out of your clothes (Psst…the secret is mixing Crown Cleaner and Shout. Just sayin’.)