The Last Dragon

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Last Dragon Movie Poster Image
Unique martial arts musical with some stereotypes.
  • PG-13
  • 1985
  • 109 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The main character finishes his training and is sent out to find a "master." He eventually learns that the master is actually himself and that he needs to look within to find the answers he seeks. He learns self-confidence and how to stand up to bullies, but this path also brings him to violence. The movie also features some lame attempts at humor and some potentially offensive racial stereotypes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Leroy is an accomplished martial artist, who believes that fighting for fighting's sake is wrong. He's peaceful and avoids fighting if he can help it. Unfortunately, his reticence leads to people getting hurt. He's sometimes a figure of ridicule, since he dresses and speaks differently from those around him, but he handles this well.

Violence

Lots of martial arts fighting here, with kicking and punching, but very stylized and light on the blood. A bully terrorizes the neighborhood and picks on everyone. A gun is fired. Some fighting gets a little dirty and includes leg-twisting and face-beating. One character keeps a piranha tank, but the piranhas do not eat anyone.

Sex

The movie is full of sexual innuendo, but very little direct sex talk. We see some kissing and lots of flirting, but that's about it.

Language

This is a typical PG-13 movie, with one use of "f--k" and a couple of uses of "s--t," but otherwise fairly light on the language. The "N" word is heard twice. "Ass," "damn," "hell," God" (as an exclamation), and "pee" are also heard.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character is selling joints in a movie theater, and we see some characters smoking pot. The main characters do not partake. The girl says, "I need a drink" in one scene, but doesn't have a drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this martial arts musical from the 1980s, produced by Berry Gordy of Motown records, is terribly dated, and probably didn't look very modern even when it opened. It contains some martial arts violence (very little blood), and some swearing and plenty of sexual innuendo. There's the potential for some offensive racial stereotypes, both African-American and Asian, but the movie has a good heart and a good hero. It features some of the same messages as The Karate Kid, which was released the year before, and teens may find some inspiration in the physical and spiritual martial arts training.

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What's the story?

Leroy Green (Taimak), who is a big Bruce Lee fan, finishes his martial arts training, and his master sends him out into the world. While he searches for his next master, Leroy manages to anger the local bully Sho'nuff (Julius Carry). Worse, he incurs the wrath of video game king Eddie Arkadian (Christopher Murney) when he rescues the beautiful host of a popular music video program, Laura Charles (Vanity); Eddie had hoped to persuade her to play his girlfriend's (terrible) new video on the show. Leroy does not believe in violence, but with so many powerful enemies against him, how long can he hold out without fighting? And can he win over the more worldly Laura in the process?

Is it any good?

THE LAST DRAGON is hardly a good movie, but it gets points for camp value, and for originality; it's probably the first -- and only -- African-American martial arts musical ever made. On the plus side, lead actors Taimak and Vanity come to the screen with a great deal of presence and likeability. Schultz brings energy and style to both the fight scenes and the musical moments, mostly staying out of their way and avoiding fast cutting and clunky choreography.

The movie bogs down in the subplot with Eddie Arkadian, a twerpy, comical villain that gets far too much screen time. Not to mention that the music -- with the exception of DeBarge's hit "Rhythm of the Night" -- has aged terribly (don't miss the potentially offensive "Suki Yaki Hot Saki Sue"). Overall, though, the movie has good intentions and there's some fun to be had. Look for William H. Macy in a small part.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the martial arts violence in the movie. Is it exciting, or does it make you uncomfortable? What is the movie's message about fighting and violence?

  • Do you recognize any stereotypes in this movie? What role does media play in challenging and reinforcing stereotypes?

  • Is Sho'nuff a bully? What makes him a bully? What are the best ways to deal with bullying?

Movie details

For kids who love action!

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