Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon is a 1985 martial arts film, produced by Rupert Hitzig for Berry Gordy and directed by Michael Schultz. A critical disappointment but a financial success, The Last Dragon is now considered a cult classic. The film stars Taimak, Vanity, Julius Carry, Christopher Murney, and Faith Prince. Choreography was by Lester Wilson, and Lawrence Leritz. The film was released in theatres by TriStar Pictures on March 22, 1985.
Set in New York City, the plot follows a teenage martial arts student named Leroy Green (often referred to as "Bruce Leroy", although he never calls himself that) with dreams of becoming a great martial artist like his idol Bruce Lee. Leroy goes on a quest to achieve the highest level of martial arts accomplishment, known as "The Final Level". Martial artists who reach the "Final Level" possess "The Glow". As its name suggests it is a mystical energy that can be tapped into by a martial arts master. When a fighter's hands glow, he is one of the best in the world and when his entire body glows, he is the greatest fighter alive. On his journey to becoming the "Last Dragon" and wielding the power of "The Glow," Leroy must confront villains such as a crooked arcade mogul Eddie Arkadian (Murney) and the evil Sho'nuff, the Shogun of Harlem, from whom he must also protect his younger brother Richie (Leo O'Brien) and his love interest, TV music video host Laura Charles (Vanity).
This was the first acting role for Taimak, a then-20-year-old black belt who learned to act on the set of this picture. Leroy and Richie's younger sister Sophie is portrayed by Cosby Show actress, Keshia Knight Pulliam. Ernie Reyes, Jr., martial artist and actor, made his film debut at the age of twelve in this film. Leo O'Brien, the actor portraying Bruce Leroy's younger brother Richie, is the younger brother of Guy O'Brien, better known as "Master Gee" from the hip-hop group The Sugarhill Gang, as well as television host London Reyes a.k.a "B-Boy London" of the New York City Breakers. Veteran actor William H. Macy makes a brief appearance as "JJ", and Chazz Palminteri makes a brief appearance as "Hood #2". Carl Anthony Payne II, who appears in a small role as a kid in the family-owned pizza shop, went on to co-star in The Cosby Show and Martin.
Featured in this film is a DeBarge song, "Rhythm of the Night", written by Diane Warren. The song reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard R&B charts. The film's Richard Perry-produced title theme was nominated for Best "Original" Song at the 1985 Golden Raspberry Awards, as was Vanity's song "7th Heaven". A song that was not featured but still benefited from critical acclaim was "Upset Stomach", written and performed by Stevie Wonder.
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