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Film / The Last Dragon

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"Who's the master?!"

A 1985 Blaxploitation/Kung-Fu movie, in which the pious martial arts student Leroy Green (AKA "Bruce Leroy") who, having practiced and studied for years under his Master's patient tutelage, finally attains the pinnacle of skill possible while a student. To finally achieve his pursuit of "The Glow", a manifestation of perfect kung fu, Leroy must leave his master's supervision and go out into the world and reach this "final level" on his own.

Along the way he saves the local distressed damsel, and goes up against the villainous duo of Sho'Nuff, the Shogun of Harlem, and white business mogul Eddie Arkadian.

Directed by Michael Shultz, who also directed Krush Groove. Not to be confused with the 2004 novel The Last Dragon, the 2008 novel Last Dragon, or the novel series The Last Dragon Chronicles.

Contains examples of:

  • 11th-Hour Superpower: In the final fight against Sho'Nuff, Bruce Leroy is losing badly, until, in a moment of self-reflection, he realizes that his master was trying to teach him that the only place he could find the final level of martial arts was within himself. He then masters 'The Glow', his entire body glowing with a brilliant golden light, which allows him to easily dominate and defeat the Shogun of Harlem.
  • The '80s: Noticeably so, especially when the Celebrity Star is Vanity.
  • '80s Hair: Laura is sporting an absolutely glorious example.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Early in the film, Johnny claims to have mastered "the art of fighting without knowing how to fight". When the dojo students invade the club just before The Climax, it turns out he learned more than he realized and managed to turn his improvisation into an effective technique.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of 70s martial arts movies, especially those by Bruce Lee. A movie theater that seems to mainly show such is a central location in the story.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Leroy's student Johnny attempts to weaponize this assumption, claiming all he really needs to do is look like he knows what he's doing and people will back off. It doesn't work. Fortunately it turns out he knows his stuff well enough to be part of The Cavalry at the end of the movie.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: "Sho'Nuff!!"
  • Arrow Catch: Leroy is deemed ready to leave his training when he is able to catch the right arrow without understanding how he did it.
  • Badass Boast: "Who's the master?! Sho'Nuff!! Shogun of Harlem!!"
  • Battle Aura: Leroy spends the movie trying to understand how to call upon "The Glow". He is more than a little surprised when Sho'Nuff summons it without effort.
    • But only in his hands. A true Master's entire body glows.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Leroy is generally a kind, respectful, and mild-mannered guy, but harm innocent people or his loved ones and he'll make you pay for it!
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Sho'Nuff, crime lord of Harlem, and Eddie Arkadian, a Corrupt Corporate Executive willing to do anything for a client to make it big, unite to take Leroy down.
  • Blaxploitation: Made way past the genre's heyday, but fits the basic requirements (and also could be considered a Stealth Parody).
  • Blood Knight: Sho'nuff fights only for the supremacy of battle and the spoils of victory. Every action he takes is to goad Leroy into a fight. When Arkadian offers him a Briefcase Full of Money, he refuses it, telling Eddie that the fight against Leroy is payment enough.
    Sho'nuff: Keep your money. You just get that sucker to the designated place at the designated time, and I will gladly designate his ass... for dismemberment!
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Sho'Nuff and his gang insist on martial arts beatdowns. The media-obsessed Arkadian's desire to "put on a show" is more important to him than immediately winning; he even stops one of his henchmen from shooting Leroy during a big staged fight. Once the show is over, however ...
  • Brick Joke: Laura notes that the medallion she's returning to Leroy looks like a belt buckle. Later, Leroy's master reveals that's exactly what it is.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Offered to and refused by Sho'nuff.
  • Bullet Catch: Leroy does this at the end of the film, with his teeth. Much earlier Sho'Nuff mentions such a trick mockingly:
    "I am sick of hearing these bullshit Superman stories about the Legendary Bruce Leroy catching bullets with his teeth... Catches bullets with his teeth?! Nigga, PLEASE!"
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Leroy's refusal to fight Sho'Nuff leads to his father's pizza place getting wrecked.
  • Carnival of Killers: Mr. Arkadian's response to Leroy's repeated beatdowns of his thugs.
  • Catchphrase: Sho'nuff has a call-and-response catchphrase. First he asks "Who's the master?!" then his gang will respond with an emphatic "SHO'NUFF!"
    • In the climax, as he beats the stuffing out of Leeroy he tries to force him to acknowledge defeat by doing the call and response. Unfortunately for him, Leeroy gets his Heroic Second Wind and instead responds with "I am."
  • The Cavalry: Leroy's dojo crew arrives at the 7th Heaven just when Leroy is getting beaten down by Eddie's mercenaries.
  • Chaste Hero: Bruce Leroy does not even have a paintbrush. He cannot even draw.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sho'Nuff mocks the stories he's heard of Leeroy, including that he "catches bullets with his teeth!" At the end of the movie, you can probably guess what Leroy does.
    • At the beginning of the movie, Leroy's master tells him that Confusion, Fear, Revenge, and Love are all parts of the world he needs to experience. Over the course of the adventure, he does.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Sho'Nuff bites a man's Achilles tendon in one fight.
    • Laura bites the hand of one of her would-be kidnappers.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Arkadian's carnival of killers (mixed with Sho'Nuff's gang) are easily handled by Leroy and his students. The fight with Sho'nuff is much more difficult for him.
  • Cowardly Lion: Johnny, who is afraid of fighting but somewhat competent at it.
  • Damsel in Distress: Laura Charles, all the time.
  • Dance Battler: Richie uses break-dancing to get untied (with accompanying background music).
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: Leroy succeeds only because the guards are all drunk and stoned. It's not that they're too blitzed to recognize him either, it's because they had the munchies and he was carrying a pizza.
  • Disrupting the Theater: Sho'nuff interrupts a showing of Enter the Dragon to challenge Bruce Leroy to a kung fu fight. Leroy refuses to fight him, but other patrons annoyed by Sho'nuff interrupting the movie agree to fight him. Sho'nuff destroys them all.
  • Dumb Muscle: Rock is an odd variant, in that Arkadian uses him like this in spite the fact that he's an absolutely terrible fighter. He also gets in a few good lines.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Sho'Nuff's gang.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Sho'nuff stops one of his guys from going after Mama Green after she hits him in the face with pizza dough.
    • Angela (who really isn't that evil) leaves once she realizes Eddie is planning to kill people to start her music career.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: Most notable in the theater.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Sho'nuff and Eddie. That is all.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Laura wants to hire Leroy to be a bodyguard, who will "guard my body."
  • Expy: Leroy Green is one of Bruce Lee (hard to see, I know.)
  • Face Palm: Leroy's brother is less than impressed with Sho'Nuff's Large Ham entrance in the movie theater.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Leroy is decidedly an Asian-phile; wearing stereotypical "rice paddy" garb, speaks Chinese and eating everything (including movie popcorn!) with chopsticks. He's taken it so far that he no longer fits in with his own culture at all, but would probably be perfectly at home in China. (His little brother is less than impressed, or amused.)
    • Leroy isn't the only one. Consider the Chinese guys who run the fortune cookie factory. They dress and act sterotypically black and speak jive turkey slang. Leroy runs into them part way through the movie. When they meet it could also be considered a Stereotype Flip.
    • Sho'nuff is influenced by Japanese culture; aside from his "Shogun of Harlem" nickname, his costume was influenced by samurai, while his gangs' costumes were based on ninja.
  • Foreshadowing: There are rumors Leroy caught bullets with his teeth? You don't say...
  • Gang of Hats: Sho'Nuff styles himself as the "Shogun of Harlem", with his people wearing martial arts outfits with a red and black color scheme.
  • Funny Bruce Lee Noises: Johnny Yu does a lot of these when he fights.
  • Golden Super Mode: Leroy's Glow is gold and covers his entire body, vs. Sho'Nuff's red glow, which is only in his hands. The difference between their Super Modes is spelled out by Leroy's former master in the opening scene.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Leroy's gold vs. Sho'Nuff's blood red "glow".
  • Groin Attack: The signature attack of Leroy's little brother. His attempt to take on the baddies is abruptly ended by a Mook with the foresight to wear a cup.
    • Sho'nuff stomps a guy's groin at one point.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Leroy's lacking in self-esteem, and it's holding him back.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Angela Viracco (who was Good All Along) pulls one of these while delivering a genuinely badass verbal beatdown to Eddie Arkadian.
  • I Have This Friend: When Leroy asks Laura about "moves".
  • In Case You Forgot Who Produced It: Officially titled Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon, marking the Motown founder's last big stab at becoming a film mogul.
  • Informed Attribute: Sho'nuff allegedly all but controls Harlem. However his gang consists of about five people, and even though he has a reputation, no one seems particularly intimidated by him until he starts beating people up.
    • When he shows up with his gang in Leroy's family pizzeria everyone there is visibly confused as to who these nutbars are. An odd reaction for an infamous crime lord.
    • When Eddie recruits Sho'nuff at his dojo, a lot more of his pupils/lackeys can be seen.
  • Informed Flaw: Angela isn't as bad a singer as she's supposed to be, particularly by 80s standards. Considering that Faith Prince went on to a wildly successful career on Broadway, it's probably Stylistic Suck.
  • Intercourse with You: Vanity's "7th Heaven" is...not a subtle song.
  • It Was with You All Along: Downplayed. Leroy has all but one thing he needs to get the glow.
  • It's Personal: Both antagonists declare this in their hatred for Leroy.
    • For Arkadian, he wants him dead because he saves Laura when he was trying to intimidate her into giving Angela a spot on her show, Leroy beating his goons and nearly feeding him to his client's carnivorous fish by accident.
    • For Sho'nuff, he wants to prove that he is a better fighter than Leroy. When Leroy refuses to fight, he tries threatening his students and his family's pizza shop to goad him into it. When Arkadian offers him a small fortune to kill him, he turns it down, the only payment he wants being the opportunity to kill Leroy himself.
  • Keep the Reward: Sho'Nuff doesn't want Arkadian's money. He just wants to fight Leroy.
  • KidAnova: Leroy's brother fancies himself as this, to a somewhat creepy extent. He doesn't look a day over twelve, but his dialogue when talking about Laura is highly suggestive and seems to imply that he expects her to sleep with him.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Sho'Nuff's repeated demands for Leroy to acknowledge his greatness.
  • Lampshade Hanging: "The Glow" plays when Leroy attains his Battle Aura.
  • Large Ham: Sho'nuff, Eddie Arkadian and their mooks. Angela and Leroy's brother also qualify.
  • The Last Title: The title.
  • Loved Ones Montage: Leroy has one when getting his head dunked in a bucket.
  • Magic Feather: Leroy's mentor gives him a secret talisman used to unlock "The Glow". It turns out to be a belt buckle.
  • Man Behind The Curtain: Sum Dum Goy is not a wise master, but is just a machine that makes up fortune cookie messages.
  • Man Bites Man: Sho'Nuff bites a man's ankle during the theater fight.
  • Martial Pacifist: Leroy. He's fine with fighting, so long as no one sees him doing it, as he doesn't want to set a bad example for his students.
  • The Master
    • "Sho'Nuff!!"
    • Bruce Leroy.
  • N-Word Privileges: "Catches bullets, WITH HIS TEETH?! Nigga Please..."
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain
    • Leroy was a badass and competent martial artist at the start of the film. But due to the events of the plot set largely in motion by Eddie Arkadian, Leroy advances to "the final level" and attains "The Glow". Becoming nearly unstoppable.
    • Sho'nuff is clearly more powerful than Leroy, having mastered the first level of The Glow. As he repeatedly beats down a fallen Leroy to try and get him to admit that Sho'nuff is the master, Leroy discovers the inner strength he needs to surpass Sho'Nuff.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Angela is basically a spoof of Cyndi Lauper. In fact, Faith Prince says that Berry Gordy even tried to talk her into spinning off from the film into becoming Motown's Real Life Lauper counterpart.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Neither lead had much acting experience, with Taimak chosen for his martial arts skills, and Vanity being known mainly for fronting Vanity 6, a Girl Group in Prince's musical stable. In Taimak's case, he'd never acted before in his life (and it shows), though his odd delivery actually works pretty well for a guy as socially awkward as Leroy.
  • Oblivious to Love: Leroy's a bit too eccentric to pick up on Laura's interest in him, at least until she grabs his head and plants one on him.
  • Oddly Small Organization: Sho'nuff and his gang.
  • Offscreen Teleportation:
    • Leeroy pulls one on Laura as she collects her belongings. Even the cab driver loses track of him.
    • Thinking he's knocked out Sho'Nuff, Leroy turns his back on his body. Then there's a yell of "Leroy!", to which Leroy turns around to find Sho'Nuff gone.
    • Leeroy is gone the second Laura and Richie look away after the Final Battle.
  • Oh, Crap!
    • Arkadian and Sho'Nuff when Leroy awakens to the Glow.
    • Leroy also gets one when Sho'Nuff gets The Glow.
    • Eddie's reaction when Tai reacts to Johnny getting hurt.
  • Only One Name: A rare film that stars two people who do this in Real Life: Taimak as Bruce Leroy and Vanity as Laura Charles.
  • Power Glows: According to the movie, a true master of Kung-Fu literally lights up when he fights. Lampshaded in both the song "The Glow" by Willie Hutch and the Expository Theme Tune.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Leeroy isn't the wittiest protagonist, but in the climax, he turns Sho'nuff's rhetorical "Who's the master?!" around on him by responding with "I AM!" before unleashing a serious beatdown on the villain.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: The three Asian rapper wannabes. Reversed with Bruce.
  • Punny Name
    • The master Leroy is sent to find is named Sum Dum Goy.
    • His study of martial arts and Chinese culture has earned Leroy the nickname Bruce Leroy. It's actually so pervasive that some people/tropers spell his name Leeroy even when they are leaving out the "Bruce".
    • Eddie Arkadian (pronounced "Arkade-ian") made his money off of video arcades.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Mr. Arkadian's gang of fighters is ... colorful.
    • Special mention goes to Sho'Nuff's gang of thugs dressed in camouflage, sporting pads, and silk robes.
      • Albino. Biker. Santa.
      • With a MOHAWK.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Eddie and Angela each give the other really good ones before she leaves him for good.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: The color scheme for the clothes Sho'Nuff and his gang wear.
  • Red Baron: "Bruce Leroy"
  • Scary Black Man: "Sho'Nuff!!"
  • Screaming Warrior: Johnny, one of Leroy's students, theorizes that people are naturally afraid of screaming Asian guys — and discovers that intimidation works better when you don't explain exactly how it works in front of the guy you're trying to scare. Later when he gets dangerous, he incorporates a lot of kiais into his fighting.
  • Seven Minute Lull: "Could you teach me some moves??" shouted by Leroy when the music stops just before the end credits.
  • Shout-Out: Unsurprisingly, Bruce Lee is a major motif here.
    • Leroy Green is often known by the nickname "Bruce Leroy".
    • Early in the film, Leroy attends a screening of Enter the Dragon. All the dragon motifs in this movie are likely also a nod to that film's title.
    • Johnny's line about "the art of fighting without knowing how to fight" is a riff on a line from Enter the Dragon about "the art of fighting without fighting."
    • Laura shows Leroy a music video she is working on, which has clips from a variety of Bruce Lee movies; Leroy points out Fist of Fury and Chinese Connection, the latter of which inspires him to put on a disguise to sneak into Sum Dum Goy's restaurant.
    • And Leroy winds up wearing the yellow and black track suit from Game of Death for a scene.
    • Johnny mockingly compares Sho'Nuff's appearance to Rick James.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: "Who is Eddie Arkadian?"
  • Smug Snake: Mr.Arkadian believes he's a The Chessmaster but lacks the finesse to live up to the title. Angela's "The Reason You Suck" Speech point blank runs down how much he's nothing but all talk and zero charisma to back it up.
  • Snipe Hunt: Leroy's former master sends him on a quest to find "an old sage called Sum Dum Goy". Naturally, Leroy never finds him.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Leroy hails a cab for Laura, then vanishes while she is collecting the things that fell out of her purse.
    Laura: Did you see where that guy went?
    Cabbie: Yeah, he's right...I don't know. You getting in or what?
  • Stylistic Suck: Angela's attempts at musical numbers are deliberately framed to look as gaudy and incomprehensible as possible.
  • Surpassed the Teacher: Leroy's master invokes this at the beginning of the film when telling him to seek a new master. It's also lampshaded in the Expository Theme Tune with "The journey now before you is the final test. You've learned your lesson well; I can teach you no more".
  • Theme Music Power-Up: ♪ "You are the Last Dragon...!" ♫
  • Tiger Versus Dragon: Leroy is beginning his new dragon cycle. Sho'Nuff's outfits all have tiger (or at one point, leopard) motifs.
  • Trickster Mentor: Leroy's sensei teaches him the deeper meaning of Kung Fu primarily by sending him on wild goose chases.
  • Triumphant Reprise: “Inside You” gets a fast-paced reprise during disco fight when Leroy’s dojo crew shows up.
  • The Unreveal: Just what exactly is in the tank is never revealed.
  • Uncle Tom Foolery: Parodied, as the ''Chinese'' characters engage in this...
  • Urban Fantasy: The Glow is what pushes it over the top.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: As mentioned above, Rock's about to shoot Leroy, but is stopped by Arkadian, who doesn't want all the effort he put into his Carnival of Killers to go to waste. Later Arkadian decides to shoot Leroy himself, but by then Leroy actually can catch bullets in his teeth.
  • World of Ham: Egads, if this movie were any hammier, it wouldn't be Kosher.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Double-Subverted. Sho'Nuff has his female mooks mockingly spar with Leroy to get a rise out of him. Leroy remains stoic until one of them makes a light contact with his face, at which point he drops into a fighting stance, ready to start hitting back. However, he stops himself and bows when he remembers that goading him into a fight was what Sho'Nuff wanted to do in the first place.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Subverted. Leroy's master often chides him for thinking and acting too much like a character is a Kung-Fu flick. Shortly after completing his training however, Leroy's life becomes one.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Bruce Leroy defeats Sho’nuff after a grueling battle, only to have Eddie pull a gun on him.


Catches Bullets with His Teeth

Bruce Leroy performs his most amazing trick!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / NowThatsUsingYourTeeth

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