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"You're nothing but a misguided midget asshole with dreams of ruling the world!"

No, that was never said to Napoleon (to my knowledge anyway) but it is just one of the many memorable lines in the quintessential blaxploitation-slash-musical-slash-kung fu-slash-thriller-slash-children's film of the 1980's, The Last Dragon. (1985 TriStar Pictures).

From a plot perspective, the movie seems pretty vanilla: a teenage student of the martial arts comes of age under his "Master's" instruction and is told that he has found the highest possible level of achievement that he can reach as a student. To develop "The Glow", a body-illuminating manifestation of perfect self-discipline, effortless concentration, and all around bad-assness, he must adventure on his own throughout the land to seek it himself. The thought of going independent after so many years of guidance frightens the soft-spoken protaganist, so the "Master" gives him a magical "amulet" as a token of his fighting virtuosity and soulful sincerity. He also informs him of another glow-endowed martial artist who might be able to help him achieve this pinnacle of perfection.

NOW...replace "amulet" with "oversized novelty belt," "the land" with "uptown Harlem," and "soft-spoken protaganist" with "schizoid, culturally isolated African-American teen named Bruce Leroy" and you have the recipe for a damned funny camp-fest of a movie that will have you laughing hard enough to pop your vocal cords loose.

"Now, when I say 'Who is da mastah,' YOU gots ta say 'Shooooooooooooooooo'nuff!'

Of course, no action movie would be complete without some kind of evil, powerful villain to justify the flying fists, feet, and pizza dough. In this one we have two, the 1) fat, overweight, and impotent (in a multitude of senses :) mob boss Arkadian, and (fortunately) 2) The self-proclaimed shogun of Harlem, a black, stringy-haired giant in a riot gear / kimono getup, Sho'nuff. I guess we are led to believe that he picked that nickname in an effort to portray his overwhelming self-confidence. Whatever. With a full string of goons in tow he sallies into a cinema where Enter the Dragon is being shown and begins shrieking for people to challenge him in personal combat. As you might expect from a martial arts movie, most of the audience fancy themselves expert fighters in a number of styles, and consequently, hordes of people hurl themselves at him, but Sho'nuff stands fast and tall like a piling on a tide-swept beach. Leroy is there also (eating popcorn with chopsticks, no less!) but refuses to fight the man, and quietly leaves the theatre, whereupon a mass riot/brawl breaks out.

The second conflict element arises through a dispute between Arkadian and the love interest of the film, Laura. By refusing to play a music video that he sends in to her TV show, he becomes pissed off, and sends thugs to attack her. Fortunately, Bruce Leroy is nearby to save Laura. He beats the living shit out of the punks and mysteriously disappears with hardly a word said to her. Laura is left with the mysterious amulet he dropped during the fight, and WE are left with a firmly enough connected chain of things, people and events to anticipate the outcome of this movie.

"A girl could do worse than to have her own real, live kung fu master."

Regardless, I think no more need be said about the story in this node, in order to preserve your overall enjoyment of the film. The camerawork, costumes, acting, and writing are absolutely stupendous (this movie is literally a campy Saturday morning cartoon brought to life) and the impromptu, hopelessly dated dance numbers will keep you rolling on the floor, epileptic-style with twenty-year old memories of big hair, spandex, and Aqua-Net. Rent it, buy it on DVD, buy the soundtrack by Willie Hutch, quote it at cocktail parties, act out scenes of it on your front lawn, and have your non-B-movie connoisseur colleagues, family, and neighbors marvel at just how screwed up you really are.

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