I don’t do irony well. I tend to take the movies I like in the spirit they were intended. If a movie’s intention feels genuine to me, then my affection for it is genuine. THE LAST DRAGON is a kid’s movie, but one of the few I will still watch from time to time because it’s guaranteed to lift my mood. If I’m being completely honest, I love this movie way more than I love most conventionally accepted “classic films.” Given the choice, I’d opt without hesitation to watch this movie over CITIZEN KANE, CASABLANCA, and even THE GODFATHER. Probably even JAWS. There, it’s out. I said it, and it’s the truth.
You want to tell this guy I’m wrong to love his movie? Go right the damn hell ahead.
I accept that no one will ever let me call this a quote-unquote good movie, but the rest of the world is going to have to accept my sober insistence that this is a one-of-a- kind genre occurrence, and even for that alone it deserves respect. There aren’t two like it. As the story of young Leroy “Bruce Leroy” Green (Taimak) and his mission to defend popular VJ Laura Charles (Vanity) against evil arcade owner Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney) and local bully The Shogun Of Harlem (Julius J. Carry III), THE LAST DRAGON stands alone in its genre — it’s the first, last, and only Motown-kung fu-action-romantic-comedy musical.
There’s so much genuine goodness about THE LAST DRAGON. It encourages the mild-mannered to stand up for themselves. It teaches kids about Eastern philosophy. It teaches kids about Bruce Lee. (This movie is where I learned about Bruce Lee.) It gave early-career employment to legendary character-actors Mike Starr, Chazz Palminteri, and William H. Macy. It has music from Willie Hutch, Stevie Wonder, and Vanity. It has Vanity walking around looking all fine. It has an irresistible, sincere and optimistic lead performance from Taimak Guarriello. It has one of the most lovable kid-sidekick performances ever, from the inimitable Leo O’Brien. It has a kid who’s been tied up by bad guys escaping capture by break-dancing out of the ropes. (Leo O’Brien again!)
This movie is a positive force for the universe. I watch it and I smile. It’s one of my few nostalgic indulgences – but it’s still fun to watch as an adult. I fear the potential remake, despite the involvement of Sam Jackson and the RZA and Taimak himself (!). THE LAST DRAGON was lightning in a bottle, and let’s face it, it’s not actually possible to catch lightning in a bottle, or a bullet between your teeth… unless a genuine miracle is involved, or unless you possess the power of The Glow.
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Tags: Chazz Palminteri, Harlem, kung fu, martial arts, Michael Schultz, Mike Starr, Musicals, New York, Pretty Ladies, Romance, Samuel L. Jackson, Screenings, Sincerity, Stevie Wonder, Taimak, The RZA, vanity, William H. Macy, Willie Hutch