Film Review: The Last Dragon (1985)

Also known as: Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon
Release Date: March 22nd, 1985
Directed by: Michael Schultz
Written by: Louis Venosta
Music by: Bruce Miller, Misha Segal
Cast: Taimak, Julius J. Carry III, Chris Murney, Leo O’Brien, Faith Prince, Glen Eaton, Vanity, Mike Starr, Ernie Reyes Jr., Keshia Knight Pulliam, Jim Moody, Esther Marrow, Chazz Palminteri, William H. Macy, Carl Anthony Payne II, Ron Van Clief (uncredited)

Motown Productions, TriStar Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

“I’m gonna get you, Leroy, because I am the Shogun! I will not rest until everybody knows the Shogun is the master!” – Sho’nuff

The Last Dragon is a weird enigma and frankly, there is nothing else quite like it.

The story is about a boy named Leroy and how he becomes a kung fu master. His friends and students call him Bruce Leroy and there is a good amount of old Bruce Lee movie footage thrown into the picture for good measure. Between this and No Retreat, No Surrender, Bruceploitation was still alive and well more than a decade after the man’s death.

Leroy draws the ire of an evil kung fu badass named Sho’Nuff, who is played by the immensely awesome Julius Carry, who I would become a lifelong fan of after his role on the underappreciated television series, Brisco County, Jr. In fact, regardless of Carry being the badass bad guy, I love this movie mostly because of him and the very young Ernie Reyes Jr.

The two main stars of the picture are Taimak as Bruce Leroy and the ’80s pop star Vanity as Laura, who was essentially like an old school MTV VJ. You also get small roles from William H. Macy, Chazz Palminteri, Mike Starr and two of The Cosby Show‘s kids: Keshia Knight Pulliam and Carl Anthony Payne II. Legit martial arts star Ron Van Clief handled the fight choreography and had a small uncredited role.

While this isn’t a musical, it is a film that is very music heavy. One of the villains is an evil music producer that wants his girlfriend to become a massive star. In fact, I thought her song was pretty good within the context of the movie but Vanity seemed to be completely disinterested in it, which made the villain lash out and become even more villainous. Honestly, the bad song wasn’t really that different than most of the mid-’80s pop that fills the movie. Had she just played the music video, she could have saved herself and her friends a lot of stress.

The thing that makes The Last Dragon so unique is that it is a weird mix of kung fu, ’80s music, teen comedy and is a visual explosion of over the top ’80s style. The film almost feels like a fantasy that takes place in a world similar to ours but much cooler, where everything is accented by neon lights and chrome.

The Last Dragon is a pretty cool experience but it feels pretty dated. It probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea in the modern era but for fans of ’80s cheese, it’s a nice cornucopia of ’80s style, music and humor. Plus, it is just a cool movie that’s a whole lot of fun.

TV Review: The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993-1994)

Original Run: August 27th, 1993 – May 20th, 1994
Created by: Jeffrey Boam, Carlton Cuse
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Velton Ray Bunch, Stephen Graziano, Randy Edelman
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Julius Carry, Christian Clemenson, Kelly Rutherford, John Astin, Billy Drago, M. C. Gainey, R. Lee Ermey (cameo), Tracey Walter

Boam/Cuse Productions, Warner Bros. Television, 27 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

briscocountyReview:

I have been a huge fan of Bruce Campbell since first experiencing the Evil Dead films in the 80s. However, as much as I love his character Ash, my favorite role Campbell has ever had is Brisco County, Jr. This is, hands down, the greatest thing Campbell has ever been a part of and it still bothers me, over twenty years later, that the show ended after a single season.

In the same vein as The Wild, Wild West (the show, not the atrocious movie), The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. mixes the western and science fiction genres. It also adds in lighthearted but excellent comedy and a family friendly level of violence, as it isn’t really violent at all.

Bruce Campbell plays the title character, Brisco County, Jr. He is a bounty hunter who is trying to round up all the men who helped murder his father, a U.S. Marshall (played by R. Lee Ermey). He finds himself pitted against John Bly (played by the always enigmatic Billy Drago), as well as Bly’s gang. Gang members, Big Smith (played by M.C. Gainey) and Pete Hutter (played by John Pyper-Ferguson) are fantastic characters that have a lot of depth and make this show even more enjoyable. Pete Hutter is actually one of my favorite comedic villains of all-time. But nothing is as cold, chilling and evil as Billy Dargo’s John Bly. He is still one of the best television and western villains I have ever seen.

On the heroic side, Brisco is joined by the lawyer Socrates Poole (played by Christian Clemenson) and rival/friend bounty hunter Lord Bowler (played by the perfectly casted Julius Carry). The camaraderie between Brisco and Bowler is amazing. They are one of the great all-time buddy pairings. The inclusion of Clemenson rounds out the trio and makes a stellar team. They are also assisted, at times, by Professor Wickwire (John Astin a.k.a. Gomez from The Addams Family) and Dixie Cousins (Kelly Rutherford in her best role).

In addition to apprehending the John Bly Gang, Brisco keeps finding himself involved with a mysterious object called “The Orb”. In fact, it is the one thing that John Bly is after. The Orb brings a supernatural element to the show that is refreshing and new. This show still feels like it is one-of-a-kind, even today, because of things like the Orb and the way that it was always looking to the future and teased technological innovations before their time.

27 episodes weren’t enough, even though the show does leave you with a somewhat satisfying ending. At least the main story arc is closed by the end of the season with a few hints at the future sprinkled in. It would’ve been awesome if it had kept moving forward though.

According to the creators, the second season would have seen Brisco becoming the sheriff of a small town while settling down with Dixie and having a family.