Retrospective documentaries always offer an enlightening trip down memory lane, whether they place their focus upon the making of a single film, one big star’s entire body of work, some heretofore unknown details, or anything in-between.
“In Search of the Last Action Heroes” is a sparkling gem, directed by YouTuber Oliver Harper, the film is a greatest hits collage of the best the action genre has had to offer. From the glory days of the 80’s to the contemporary Video On Demand era, interwoven with interviews from some of the biggest stars and most beloved action filmmakers of the last four decades.
“In Search of the Last Action Heroes” runs down on some of the most beloved action movies of all time, from renowned franchises like James Bond, “Rambo”, “Lethal Weapon”, 80’s sci-fi classics like “Aliens” and “Robocop”, martial arts hits like “China O’Brien” and the “Best of the Best” movies, and 90’s hits like “Speed” and “The Matrix”.
Bringing on the Big Guns: Action Stars Talk…
Even better, however, are the interviews that Harper pollinates the film with, which include screenwriting wunderkind Shane Black, the ever-envelope pushing director Paul Verhoeven, action stars of the early 90’s like Cynthia Rothrock, Matthias Hues, and Phillip Rhee, and their more contemporary brethren like Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White, among many others, to include the world’s most instantly recognizable stuntman, Al Leong.
Over the course of the film, Harper’s movie acts as a greatest hits album of some of the most spellbinding action movies ever made, along with genre low points like 1994’s “Street Fighter: The Movie”, and the documentary’s 1993 namesake “Last Action Hero” (while acknowledging the well-deserved retrospective appreciation the latter is now beginning to enjoy).
The Challenges of Moviemaking, CGI & Wire-Fu
Through each pit stop to each hit, sending studios chasing after the next pot of gold, the movie is at once timeless and a time capsule, with each era of action movies it zeroes in on sure to evoke a feeling of nostalgic warmth from viewers.
The movie also sheds light on the trials and difficulties of action moviemaking, from indecisive studio decisions to lowering budgets and production schedules, along with the impact of CGI and wire-fu as popularized by “The Matrix” and “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”.
The film also touches upon the ebb and flow of trends and fads within moviemaking, while offering the (not incorrect) proposal that modern franchises like the “Fast and Furious” movies represent a modern-day resurgence for the machismo-driven 80’s era.
For being well over two-hours long, the film never for a moment feels like it’s overstayed its welcome, and if anything, viewers are likely to find themselves with one or two cherished action hits on their mind that wish could’ve made it into the movie’s spotlight by the end.
Nevertheless, for a genre documentary to hit as many of the pertinent checkpoints as “In Search of the Last Action Heroes” does, results in an impressively and thoroughly entertaining two-hour, twenty-minute love letter to action movies both nostalgic and contemporary.
For those with a passion for action movies, “In Search of the Last Action Heroes” is a dream come true. With modern and retired heavy hitters both in front and behind the camera populating the movie, and a sizzle reel of one beloved big-screen adventure after another, the movie is as full and luminous an action movie photo album as any genre fan could ever hope to see.
For alpha-action fanatics, documentaries just don’t get any better than “In Search of the Last Action Heroes”!
- The movie was funded through a Kickstarter campaign, raising £42,048 on a goal of £15,000
- Prior to making the film, Oliver Harper had hosted the YouTube channel “Oliver Harper’s Retrospectives and Reviews”, which he continues to host today.
- “If you look at a list of film genres in any kind of book or publication about Hollywood, you won’t see action movies listed as a genre until really the 80’s.” – Steven E. de Souza
- “The ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise is the most surprising franchise of all time. I mean, there’s just no way anyone could have predicted it. Every, like, last hope of classic 80’s action movies to me is in the ‘Fast and Furious’.” – Brian Tyler (score composer of 2015’s “Furious 7”)
- “A couple of the big action directors nowadays started out being stunt doubles. Chad Stahelski, who has directed the “John Wick” movies, was a stunt double for Keanu Reeves. Also David Leitch was Brad Pitt’s stunt double for years, and he was also the stunt double for Van Damme. They’re both directing huge movies now. David did the “Deadpool” sequel. They basically know how this s**t works.” – Sheldon Lettich