Monday, July 9, 2012

Sudden Death (1995)

Director: Peter Hyams
Notable Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Powers Booth

Like all great film heroes of the 80s and 90s, Jean-Claude Van Damme did some great films and he did some trashy B-grade films. Then he also did some films like "Sudden Death" which is a combination of both...being a great trashy film. There is plenty to love about this movie from it's setting to its villain to its epic finale, but the film is built on such a rocky foundation that its hard to believe a script as awkwardly put together as this ever made it past the developmental phase. Yet here we are a decade and a half later, reviewing the film by request on Blood Brothers...and loving every minute of it.

McCord (Van Damme) lost his nerve to be the heroic firefighter years go. Now he's a bit of a head case and has been working at the Pittsburgh Penguins arena checking fire codes just to get by. This is how he comes about a couple of tickets for his kids. This is also how he gets caught up in a terrorist act to hold the Vice President hostage during the Stanley Cup finale for a huge ass sum of cash. This is how he finally finds the opportunity to overcome his fears to save his kids from certain disaster.

I can't count how many times I have sat watching a hockey game with my wife and thought to myself, 'wouldn't this make a great fucking setting for an action movie about terrorists, extreme parenting, and terrorist threats?' All right. That's a lie. After watching "Sudden Death" though, it seems like it was destined to be action film gold. There are just so many awesome things you can do within the setting (including the use of the term 'sudden death' for a title). This film doesn't let its ridiculous concept go to waste either. You guet a fist fight with an assassin in the Penguins mascot uniform. Giant explosions from score boards. A kick to a henchman's face with a skate and goalie pads. Hell, at one point Van Damme actually impersonates a goalie only to get into a fist fight on the ice and get expelled. Peter Hyams and company certainly didn't let the concept of its setting go to waste here and its the biggest and most fun aspect of the film even if its very silly.

This is a new martial arts style known as "Choked By Penguin."
Beyond its cheesy set up action set pieces, the film runs charming if not somewhat mediocre for story and execution. Van Damme does his best with the role (oddly enough one of his better times on screen), but his dialogue is quite limited and the depth of his character is underwhelming in psyche. The same goes for most of the secondary cast of cops, politicians, and kids. The kids are quite annoying really and it would have helped had Hyams not decided to throw extreme close-ups of their faces every chance that was available. The only redeemable part of the acting and character work is Powers Booth as the villain. Even though his character is rather thin and campy in his mysteriousness, he owns that role and snarls out the snide remarks and one liners with the grace of knowing to ham it up a bit.

"All right. You win. I can't kick my way out of anything. Here's a dollar."
Most movie goers of this day and age are going to tear "Sudden Death" apart for its weakly thought out story and dated look. Consider this asshole the devil's advocate that enjoyed its silly, nonsensical, and ridiculous plot for what it is...and that includes the anti-gravity epic finale. It's embrace of these elements is what makes it fun and entertaining. It stages the action set pieces with vigor for the silly concept and both Van Damme and Powers Booth make for great counter balances to one another. Swear at it all you want, but in the's just another Damme movie! Ba da chah!

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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