The Last Dragon doesn’t try to hide that it is a blatant homage to Bruce Lee. After Bruce Lee’s sudden death in 1973 movie makers and viewers alike searched for the next Bruce Lee, the next Master. In the 70’s and 80’s Black folks loved Bruce Lee and Kung-Fu movies in general. Although many movies and martial artist tried to copy and mimic Bruce to recapture his magic they just came off as cheap, unoriginal knock offs. The makers of The Last Dragon made the Bruce Lee homage work, they leveraged people’s longing for a new master and Black culture’s love of martial arts movies to create some magic of their own. Not only did we get a Bruce Lee like character, in Bruce Lee like movie but it also gave us something that was lacking then and even now: a Black super hero- but that’s an another article…. For now let’s breakdown a list of the most interesting homages to Bruce Lee in The Last Dragon.
Homages to Bruce Lee in The Last Dragon
It’s obvious The Last Dragon’s writer Louis Venosta was a big fan of Bruce Lee. He was clearly influenced by his films and plays off some of the themes, movements, dialogue and scenes particularly from Fists of Fury, Chinese Connection, Game of Death and Enter the Dragon. Some of the homages are very obvious others you may not have noticed before…
1. Leroy idolizes Bruce Lee & Chinese Culture
Our hero Leroy Green clearly idolizes Bruce Lee. So much so he is known around Harlem as “Bruce” Leroy. He speaks like he comes straight out a fortune cookie and doesn’t use contractions as if English was his second language. In addition in attempting to appropriate Chinese culture he wears an Asian conical hat (aka Sedge hat, Rice hat, Paddy hat, Coolie hat) & traditional Chinese clothing. His love of Bruce Lee is so deep that he would rather watch “Fists of Fury” then let Vanity teach him some moves. Taimak Guarriello who played Leroy is himself a huge Bruce Lee fan.
Who’s Badder than the Shogun?
2. Leroy’s Gold Medallion was said to be Bruce Lee’s
This of course turns out to be a total lie. The man formerly known as Leroy’s Master later informs Leroy that he needed a charm on his journey and that the medallion is actually a plain old belt buckle that “a true master would use to hold up his pants.”
3. Bruce Lee’s ‘Enter the Dragon’ is on at the movie theater
This scene filmed at The Deuce aka Times Square Move Theater in New York is another very obvious tip of the hat to Bruce Lee. The action in the scene plays off what is happening in ‘Enter the Dragon’ on the big screen. For instance the big dude with the Transvestite (credited as “Radio Smasher” played by Peter Traina) smashes the break-dancers radio to pieces at the same time Bruce smashes O’Hara to death in Enter the Dragon. Then the theater patrons all say Han’s (the villain in ‘Enter the Dragon’) line in unison: “O’Hara, your treachery has disgraced us…”
When Sho’nuff makes his entrance the movie patrons get so upset that he has interrupted their Kung Fu masterpiece that about 50 of them come down to make Sho sit down and shut up at the same time Bruce takes on dozens of Han’s henchmen upset that Bruce ruined their little tournament.
4. Leroy has a picture of Bruce on the wall of his Dojo
Another obvious one but I think it is cool because I had the same poster on my dorm room wall in College.
5. Leroy wears Lee’s iconic yellow track suit from ‘Game of Death’
Here’s a fact that all Last Dragon fans know: before Quentin Tarantino put Uma Thurman in Bruce Lee’s Yellow ‘Game of Death’ Tracksuit in 2002, Berry Gordy & Michael Schultz had Taimak rocking it in 1985. Little known fact, Bruce Lee wore this one piece jump suit to represent his fluid formless martial art style that did not confirm to any rigid traditional style or associated uniform. ‘Kill Bill’, ‘The Last Dragon’, Stephen Chow’s ‘Shaolin Soccer’, ‘Revenge of the Nerds’, and Jet Li’s ‘High Risk’ are just a few examples of the movies to honor Bruce Lee by including a homage to the iconic Black & Yellow outfit.
6. Even Laura Charles knows Bruce Lee had the original Glow
Leroy explains the glow to Laura
“I am search of the final level where the spirit takes over from the mind and guides the body without thought…. A great fighter, for instance might be able to get just his hands to fill with such power that they would get the glow, which could be deadly if it fell into evil hands. Yet, if these hands belonged to a master…”
Laura replies :
“Like Bruce Lee.”
7. Laura Charles’ Bruce Lee video compilation: ‘The Glow’
Bruce Lee mix above is not from The Last Dragon
The Video set to the Willie Hutch song ‘The Glow’ contained clips from Bruce’s first 2 big movies ‘Fists of Fury’ (1971) aka ‘The Big Boss’ and ‘Chinese Connection’ (1972) aka ‘Fists of Fury’. No that’s not a typo and yes it is very confusing. Bruce Lee’s first movie was originally released in Asia as ‘The Big Boss’ when it debuted over here it was called ‘Fists of Fury’. ‘Chinese Connection’ on the other hand was originally known as ‘Fists of Fury’ in Asia but called ‘Chinese Connection’ here.
When Leroy sees Bruce Lee kiss a girl in one of the clips it gives him the courage to kiss Laura for the first time. Another clip gives Leroy the inspiration he needs to take the next step on his quest to find the master…
8. Leroy gets the idea to disguise himself as “Soul Brotha Number One” from ‘Chinese Connection’
While watching Laura’s Bruce Lee video montage Leroy notices that Bruce disguises himself in the ‘Chinese Connection‘ to “enter the villains lair”. This leads to the famous “Hey my man, What it look like?” scene where Leroy dresses and acts “Black” to trick the Sum Dum Goy Fortune Cookie Factory workers into letting him in to see the Master. The twist is that the usually cool Bruce Lee goes nerdy and dons coke bottle glasses and the normally nerdy Leroy Green tries to be cool and puts on shades and mesh shirt.
9. Leroy’s slow motion lotus blossom arm move thing right after he gets the glow
This is The Last Dragon’s version of the same slow motion Bruce Lee move in the final fight scene vs Robert Baker in ‘Chinese Connection’.
10. Chinese vs Japanese Theme
In ‘Chinese Connection’ (1972) the Chinese Bruce Lee was fighting oppression from Japanese imperialist. In The Last Dragon, Leroy and his students wear traditional Chinese clothing and practice the Chinese martial art of Kung Fu, while Sho’nuff and his crew wear Japanese samurai inspired outfits decorated with Japanese flags. Sho’nuf calls himself the Shogun of Harlem a direct reference to the title for a military commander in ancient Japan (8th century to 12th century A.D.), and later for a ruler of Shogunate Japan (12th century to 1868). The word “shogun” comes from the Japanese wordssho, meaning “commander,” and gun, or “troops.”
11. Johnny Yu is a humorous caricature of Bruce Lee
Sure Leroy is the so called “Black” Bruce Lee but Johnny Yu, one of Leroy’s students played by Glen Eaton, is used as a comedic version of Bruce Lee. He tries to move like Bruce, yell like Bruce and uses the stereotype brought on by Bruce that all Asians know Martial Arts. Johnny Yu channels Bruce Lee quite noticeably these 2 scenes:
Johnny Explains the Art of fighting without knowing how to fight
In “Enter the Dragon” Bruce Lee demonstates “the art of fighting without fighting” by using his wits to outsmart his opponent and avoid an unnecessary confrontation in the boat on the way to Han’s Island. (see video below)
Bruce Lee Demonstrates the Art of Fighting without Fighting
Johnny claims he can do one better than Bruce, he explains that he can avoid fighting by using “the art of fighting without knowing how to fight” by acting, moving and sounding like you can fight.
“Leroy, you know how you’re always teaching us to master the art of fighting without fighting? Well, I did you one better. I mastered the art of fighting without knowing how to fight. You see, people… People are afraid of Oriental dudes. Give them a little move, a little scream, and lots of attitude. Check this out.”
Johnny’s version of Bruce’s ‘Big Boss‘ “You wanna fight? I’ll take you on!”
In Bruce Lee’s first fight scene in his first big movie “The Big Boss” aka “Fists of Fury” Bruce’s character Cheng has had enough of watching his co-workers and family get beat up by goons and is forced to do jump in to do something about it. In this epic unveiling of Bruce’s talents on the big screen he quickly dispatches several thugs then shouts out:
“”Alright! Hold it!” before he goes on warning and insulting the thugs by saying: “Now you get out of here I’m warning you. You bastards can’t push us around.” He ends his mini soliloquy with “You wanna Fight? I’ll Take you on!”
Last Dragon fans, is this starting to sound familiar yet? Doesn’t it remind of you when Johnny was tired of watching Sho’nuff and his goons insult Leroy in front of his students and jumps in shouting:
“”Enough! You wanna fight? You fight me, you big ugly, smelly-breathed sucker! How about you? string bean, Rick-James-lookin’ fool?”
Other than making things more personal and throwing a little comedy into the insults Johnny he is pretty much saying the same thing as Bruce.
Watch the similarities between Johnny Yu’s “String Bean Rick James Lookin’ Fool!” scene and Bruce Lee’s “Alright! Hold it! scene for yourself.
And here’s Bruce:
12. Leroy’s Reluctance to Fight
Leroy does not want to fight Sho’nuff. He sees violence as a last resort and only uses it when those he loves are put into danger. This is a common theme in many Kung Fu movies including Bruce Lee’s. In the “Big Boss” Bruce has sworn an oath of not fighting which he keeps until he sees his brothers getting beat up and even killed.
13. The Title of the Film
The Last Dragon sounds like it could have been Bruce Lee’s next movie title. If he hadn’t died maybe it could have been? Return of the Dragon, Enter The Dragon, The Last Dragon it makes sense. In fact often when I bring up The Last Dragon many people first mistakenly assume I am talking about a Bruce Lee movie.
What other Homages to Bruce Lee have you noticed in The Last Dragon? Comment Below…
Craig Sutton | @thelastglow
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