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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Last Dragon
The Last Dragon
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG-13 // July 3, 2001
List Price: $19.98
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted June 26, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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All movie fans reserve a small space in their movie-addled brains for a few childhood favorites. The two films I best remember as my earliest "grown-up" movies are Band of the Hand (1986) and Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon (1985). Having seen both films in the theater, they have lived large in my memory as super-cool epics of action, adventure, and wonder. When the opportunity to rewatch The Last Dragon on DVD came up I leapt for joy. I still vividly remembered many of the key scenes and figured that if the movie is one-tenth as cool as it seemed to my nine-year old self then it would still be great.

Well, I thoroughly enjoyed watching The Last Dragon again after all these years, but I can't say that that was because the movie was good, exactly. The Last Dragon is the kind of movie that makes it hard to believe that the creators were full grown adults. For instance, one of the main villains is a rich toy manufacturer who is willing to kill anybody who stands in the way of his getting his girlfriend's music video "Dirty Books" onto a strange music video show hosted by Laura (Prince's one-time plaything Vanity). Now, I think that big business tycoons are as evil as can be, but I doubt any of them have unidentifiable underwater monsters living in murky tanks in their offices ready to devour competitors alive.

The Last Dragon mixes childish comedy with childish melodrama without much flair for pacing of subtlety. Of course, it also confuses Chinese and Japanese culture with the same disregard for common sense. That's because that is not what this film is about. It is simply about the plight of young Bruce Leroy. Trying to live the life of a kung fu master in the inner city must certainly be tough, especially with all of these setbacks, but Leroy (the comatose Taimak) perseveres. A jive-talkin' kung fu movie was a great idea, but the elements don't jive. Plus, the film never makes the obvious connection between break dancing and martial arts. That's too bad. Other than that what's left is bad acting (except for young Leo O'Brien playing Leroy's brother, and the insane Julius Carry as Sho'nuff, a cross between Gene Simmons and Ol Dirty Bastard), bad fight scenes, bad technical elements, and REALLY bad music (other than DeBarge's immortal "Rhythm of the Night" the soundtrack is a dog. Motown, what were you thinking?). Director Michael Schultz's career has had highs (Car Wash) and lows (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) but the loose wit of his best films (like Cooley High) seems muted here. Still, I found myself cracking up constantly. This ain't no Mensa training film, but it is a hoot.

Note: Look for William H. Macy in a small role as a producer on Laura's Video Hot Pix.

VIDEO:
The widescreen video looks good. It's hardly a beautiful looking film and some parts are a bit dark, but the transfer looks fine. A full screen version is on the other side.

AUDIO:
The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 and sounds good. The sound effects are intentionally cheesy, but they have some punch. The music sounds ok (but then again, the music is really bad).

The soundtrack is also available in French and Portuguese with subtitles in English, French, Chinese, Korean, Thai, and Portuguese.

EXTRAS:
The extras include a commentary track, bios, and trailers for Gen-X Cops, Maximum Risk, and Jackie Chan's Who Am I?. The commentary track, featuring director Michael Schultz, is actually very informative and includes a great deal of information about the creation of the film, the troubles of making a predominantly black film in the Hollywood system, and the many creative hurdles along the way (like when Schultz accidentally deleted 40 pages of script. Oops!)

FINAL THOUGHTS:
The main audience for The Last Dragon will be folks who fondly remember it, like I do, from their childhood. It's hard to imagine most people seeing it for the first time now and seeing past the silliness. Considering that it was once the highest grossing martial arts movie in American film history, The Last Dragon deserves a look. Still, it's got nothing on Bruce, Jackie, and Jet.

Other films by director Michael Schultz:
Cooley High

Other martial arts DVDs:
Jackie Chan: My Stunts
The Buddha Assassinator
Drunken Master III
Dragon Inn

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