Netflix Review – The Last Dragon: Cocaine Makes a Hell of a Film

Before I start, several people related to this film died from drug-related illnesses, including Vanity. If you or anyone you know has substance abuse problems, please contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s hotline (https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline) at 1-800-662-HELP. Thank you.

Now that I’ve done my due diligence, I’m going to spend the next 30 minutes (for me, 5 for you) thinking about how coked-out of their minds the people behind this film clearly had to be. Does that make me a bad person? Yes, it absolutely does, but I’m doing it anyway. Let’s try to remember that I probably do good things sometimes.

SUMMARY (Spoilers)

Leroy “Bruce Lee-roy” Green (Taimak) is a martial artist out of Harlem who has recently achieved the final level of martial arts skill under his master (Thomas Ikeda). However, he desires to reach the level of true mastery, which is referred to as “the glow.” His master says nothing more can be taught to him, but advises him to find a Master Sum Dum Goy if he wishes to know more and gives him a medallion which belonged to Bruce Lee. Leroy’s reputation as the best fighter in Harlem antagonizes Sho’nuff, the Shogun of Harlem (Julius J. Carry III), a martial-artist and gang leader. He is also the best part of the movie, as you might expect from that description. Leroy refuses to fight Sho’nuff on principle, further angering him. He tries to harass Leroy by attacking his martial arts students and Leroy’s father’s pizzeria.

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This is the Shogun of Harlem versus a guy wearing Bruce Lee’s Game of Death outfit.

On the other side of the plot, video game arcade mogul Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney) tries to kidnap Laura Charles (Vanity), the host of a popular music video show called Seventh Heaven, in order to get a career in music for his girlfriend, Angela (Faith Prince). His thugs happen to pick a time when Leroy is nearby, resulting in Leroy beating them senseless before he disappears without telling Laura his name. Later, he happens to see Laura when Arkadian’s main henchman, Rock (Mike Starr), kidnaps her. Leroy then follows them, breaks into Arkadian’s building and frees Laura. This time she sees him and falls for him immediately. Arkadian, now consumed by anger at Leroy and Laura, hires Sho’nuff’s gang to defeat Leroy. Leroy and Laura share some awkward romantic moments until Leroy is inspired by a clip of Bruce Lee that Laura shows him and runs off to find Master Sum Dum Goy. Immediately after that, the villains kidnap Laura and Leroy’s younger brother, Richie (Leo O’Brien) and take over Laura’s studio.

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Yes, their chemistry is like water and… water that has less acting ability.

Leroy discovers that Master Sum Dum Goy lives in a fortune cookie factory in Harlem, because why not? He attempts many Wile E. Coyote-esque schemes to get past the guards before finally just beating them up. However, the guards show him that Master Sum Dum Goy is actually a computer that randomly generates fortunes. He asks his master to explain, but the master says that Leroy already has all the answers. Arkadian’s girlfriend Angela decides that she doesn’t want people to suffer for her fame, so she leaves Arkadian and tells Leroy’s student to warn him. Leroy heads to the movie studio where he’s ambushed by an army of thugs, but his students show up to help him, including Tai (a young Ernie Reyes, Jr.) and Johnny (Glen Eaton).

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Look at those eyes and tell me there wasn’t cocaine on every shot.

Leroy finds Arkadian and Laura, but is attacked by Sho’nuff. Leroy appears to be winning the fight until Sho’nuff reveals that he possesses a limited form of “the glow” which appears as a red aura around his hands. Sho’nuff proceeds to dominate Leroy before asking him “who’s the master, now?” Leroy realizes that his master’s last lesson is that there are no more lessons and he needs to find his own answers, which apparently gives Leroy “the glow” and bathes him in yellow light. He then destroys Sho’nuff, but Arkadian appears and shoots him. Leroy catches the bullet in his teeth, because this movie is amazing, and he and Laura dance on her show as the film ends.

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Yes. This is an actual, unedited, shot of this film.

END SUMMARY

Look, there’s no doubt in my mind that this movie could only be made in the 80s, when cocaine blew through Hollywood like the Santa Ana winds. There were clearly NO bad ideas during the concept phase of this movie. For example:

“What are we going to call the villain who owns an arcade?”

“I know! ARKADIAN. GET IT? ARCADE-IAN?”

*Snorting sounds*

“F*CK YEAH, BEST NAME EVER.”

Why is he an arcade mogul? Why do none of the criminals in this movie carry guns until Arkadian shoots Leroy? How does kidnapping Vanity get Arkadian’s girlfriend a spot on the show? Why is there a Shogun of Harlem? Why is the great master a fortune cookie generator? All of these questions were clearly answered with “one sec, I need some blow.”

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Good plan! – Rick James

Do you see how long and insane the summary is? That’s WITHOUT all of the subplots, of which there are many and they’re even more insane than the main plot. There’s a random tank containing some sort of carnivorous fish or monster. Richie (14) tries to seduce Vanity (26) at several points. Johnny tries to develop a fighting style based on yelling loudly while being Asian (yes, that’s what he says). Daddy Green’s Pizza restaurant gets destroyed by Sho’nuff (and has the best slogan: Just direct-a your feets-a to Daddy Green’s Pizza!). There are several sequences that are just music videos as part of Vanity’s show.

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Best Pizza Place on Film.

That brings me to one of the most surprising parts of the movie: This is the source of the song “Rhythm of the Night” by DeBarge. I know it’s not the most famous 80s song, but it was the first major song written by 9 time Academy Award nominee Diane Warren. Given that she later wrote “How Do I Live” from Con Air, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” from Mannequin, and “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” from Armageddon, it’s completely understandable that she’d write a song that would end up in The Last Dragon. She’s basically the queen of “great song, insane movie.” There’s also clips from Smokey Robinson’s “First Time on a Ferris Wheel” and Stevie Wonder’s “Upset Stomach.” Vanity herself debuted a song in this film, called “7th Heaven” but it didn’t make much of a splash.

The rest of the music in this film runs from “forgettable” to “distractingly awful.” Notably, the songs “The Last Dragon” and “The Glow” which play during the title sequence and the final fight are so bad that I honestly don’t remember what happens in those scenes as well because my mind fears hearing the sounds again.

Neither Vanity nor Taimak can act, nor were they chosen for their acting ability. Since they’re the people who are onscreen the most during the film, that doesn’t exactly work out well, particularly during their scenes together.

Now, to counter all of that, I will say the following: This movie is so insane and so overloaded that it is never boring. No matter how ridiculous it gets, it always encourages you to suspend your disbelief to the appropriate level and never tries to impose “logic” or “reality.” You’re just supposed to enjoy it. It’s to the film’s credit that, despite how many random plot points there are, it’s pretty easy to follow. Also, there’s Julius Carry’s portrayal of Sho’nuff. He’s not in the movie as much as I would like, but that only makes the scenes that he is in all the more powerful. He’s so over-the-top and awesome that he immediately justifies any other corniness in the film. I would pay an extremely stupid amount of money to see a Sho’nuff origin story.

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This was a central plot point in the film. Really.

Is this movie going to change your life? Hell no. But is it a great way to spend 90 minutes, preferably buzzed? Hell yes.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Amazon Prime Review – Never Too Young to Die (1986): John Stamos, Gene Simmons, and Absolutely No Restraint

If you aren’t listening to the Podcast “How Did This Get Made” with Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas, you are missing out. Not just because these are three of the best comic minds I’ve ever heard take a movie apart (they don’t really “Riff” MST3K style, so I’m not disparaging my childhood hero Crow T. Robot), but because they expose me to levels of terrible movie that I previously might never have known existed. And for that I am eternally grateful. However, when I watched this particular film, I couldn’t resist writing my own take. I’m publishing this today just so that I won’t be tempted to borrow observations from them when the episode is released tomorrow.

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A question for the ages.

Also, the movie’s available on Amazon Prime if you didn’t get that from the title.

SYNOPSIS (IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO SPOIL THIS FILM)

The movie starts with a cultish rally of the minions of psychopathic hermaphroditic (masculine pronouns) nightclub singer and supervillain Velvet von Ragnar (Gene Simmons). If you aren’t sold just from that sentence, you don’t have music in your soul. Ragnar discovers that a key component to his plans to poison the water supply of Los Angeles has been stolen by Secret Agent Drew Stargrove (George “This was a paycheck” Lazenby). Ragnar ends up killing Stargrove, only for him to have already gotten rid of the component. After the funeral, his gymnast son, Lance Stargrove (John Stamos), finds out that part of his father’s will is a farm whose only resident is Danja Deering (Vanity of Vanity 6), another secret agent that he rescues from Ragnar’s leather-clad henchmen. Together, they foil Ragnar’s eeeeeeeeevil scheme, with the help of Lance’s roommate, convenient super-genius inventor, Cliff (Peter Kwong).

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You can see Lazenby think “was it worth the paycheck?”

END SYNOPSIS

This movie is everything. There should be ballads composed to celebrate it. There should be national holidays dedicated to it on which people consume copious amounts of alcohol and cocaine so that they can hit the proper state of Zen that resulted in its creation. I’d say there should be a song just celebrating the main character, but, oh wait, THERE’S ONE ALREADY IN THE FILM. Yes, Lance has his own theme song during the opening credits as he displays his ultra-super-gymnast skills and it is every 80s pop music theme. And, you lucky bastards, I found you a copy of it:

Lance is basically one of those characters who has been training for this job his entire life without knowing it. He is a gymnast, can fight reasonably well, has a collection of gadgets that his roommate randomly invents that all turn out to be useful, shoots nearly perfectly, does motorcycle stunts, has a quick… well not really wit, but what the movie wants you to think is wit, and has the hair of a young John Stamos. He’s basically a prefab action hero, albeit in the vein of Gymkata. All of this despite ostensibly never knowing what his father does for a living.

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THERE IS SO MUCH HAIR IN THIS MOVIE

Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure that Gene Simmons wrote all of Ragnar’s lines, because he is so into the role that all the ridiculous crap he’s saying comes off as sincere… which makes it so hilarious I had to pause the film to finish laughing. Compared with all the other films I’ve watched him in, this is the most in-character I’ve ever seen him. (Good Rule of Thumb: If Simmons’s character has a name in the film you’re watching, it’s not a good film). His outfits would make RuPaul either angry or jealous. There is no in-between. Also, he has whatever random ability the scene requires. He’s a master of disguise, a supergenius, has an evil empire, is ridiculously strong, is a master of infiltration, and also sings like Gene Simmons (okay, that last one makes sense). He should have already enslaved humanity before the movie started. Also, I’m like 90% sure that Gene Simmons wrote the IMDB summary for this film.

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The rest of the band is actually made up of transvestites who gave him tips. No, really.

The supporting characters are all as 80s as it gets. Ragnar’s henchmen are either leather-clad goons leftover from The Warriors or the uptight evil scientist played by… Robert Englund? Yes, despite only being 2 movies into the Nightmare on Elm Street series, Freddy Krueger appears in this film. And, to be fair, he’s far and away the best actor. George Lazenby is only in the movie for a few minutes, but, since he was James Bond, his portrayal of a superspy is pretty on-point. Vanity… well, she’s every 80s female spy. She’s super tough and confident at the beginning, but, of course, her incompetence and tendency to not be fully clothed gets her captured so the guy can save her despite her spending years as a secret agent and him being a gymnast who hasn’t killed anyone before this. And yes, she “thanks” him for saving his life. I’m sure glad women’s roles have improved (*glares at camera*). Actually, they have, but this was a really low bar. And then there’s Cliff.

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“Welcome to my nightmare!” “That song’s by Alice Cooper” “Song?”

Cliff is Q except that he spends his time just supporting Lance rather than becoming rich or saving the world. He makes several devices during the film, including the laser-flamethrower which he uses during the climax, which should have made him wealthy, rather than just helping his buddy cheat at chemistry tests. He also has zero problems following Lance into an armed refinery filled with gun-toting psychos and killing a bunch of them. I think following his story would be so much more interesting than the actual story, because he’s definitely going to take over the world after the credits roll.

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Lance, do you think my MacGuffin is cool? Tell me, Lance!

There is also one scene that absolutely needs to be addressed. When Lance turns Danja down the first time, she attempts to seduce him by wearing a bikini, oiling herself up, taking her top off, and hosing herself down, all while Stamos walks into the house 3 times, each time coming out with a different food or drink item. Finally, he gives in and the sex scene that follows is… weird and confusing, since it makes it seem like he throws her on the bed like 3 times. Even for film sex scenes with gratuitous nudity, this is crap. However, it’s crap with boobies, John Stamos, and saxophone music, making it thoroughly enjoyable.

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#Feminism

Overall, obviously, I loved this film. Everyone involved clearly seemed to think they were making a much better film, which is the hallmark of a “so bad, it’s good” movie. Give it a try sometime.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.