a critiQal film review Sudden Death (1995)

Plot: It's the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Pittsburgh Penguins are battling the Chicago Blackhawks as 17,000 frenzied fans, including the Vice President of the United States, are on the edge of their seats - unaware that an elite group of terrorists is about to make this a game no one will ever forget.

575 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 52s)
  • ...Die Hard at a hockey game + Van Damme = pure popcorn enjoyment.

Okay, I know, I know. You read the plot summary, it says Van Damme, you say “why bother?” While that may be true for some of his films (especially The Order (2001)), he has made a few pretty good action films. Okay, two: Timecop (1994) and Sudden Death.

While the premise may seem a bit hokey, and Van Damme does play his usual semi-acting self, it redeems itself somehow.

The characters swing back and forth in terms of acting. Powers Boothe, with what has to be the coolest name in show biz, tends to exude a calm, even while killing and generally being a bad guy. It usually works well for him, and doesn’t fail him here. Boothe plays a good bad guy, and could be exceptional if given the right role.

Van Damme, while not being the best actor around, suffers through, and seems to actually care a bit about his character in ,span id=”movee”>Sudden Death, which is a huge switch for him. Most films, he tries to kick and punch his way through, and point to that as his acting. Sudden Death, at least he tries to act, albeit not very well. Timecop (1994) showed him at his best, and here you can see him try to reach for that peak.

Even though he doesn’t reach it, his struggle to act pulls you more into his character, which is a plus, even if it is for the wrong reasons.

The plot was thin, as is usual for a Van Damme film, but the director does try to keep the film on track more than most of Van Damme’s other directors. The story unfolds in an orderly fashion, even if some of the butt-kicking scenes do seem a bit over the top. But hey, at least they’re trying, right? That’s more then can be said for most of Van Damme’s other films. The usual thinking seem to be to just stick Van Damme in a film, have him beat up stuff with his fancy kicks and punches, and people will see it. It’s nice to see that mentality fading a little bit in Sudden Death.

The butt-kicking scenes are well choreographed, and are placed in some interesting locations within the confined areas of the stadium. From the kitchen to the basement to the roof, Van Damme kicks and punches his way around the entire stadium.

While the action is intense, it seemed they overused the kitchen area especially. Once is enough, people. Don’t re-use the same area. Have him fight someplace else. Okay, I know that there weren’t a whole lot of choices, and you did try to change the style of the fight, but you didn’t change it enough. It seemed almost a repeat performance.

All in all, Sudden Death lives up to, and exceeds, most notions viewers familiar with Van Damme’s films will have going in. While not his best, Sudden Death does give you a fun, action-packed, popcorn film. Think Die Hard (1988) during a hockey game, and you’ve got the gist of it. Check it out…and hey, even if you consider it cheesy, you can still applaud Van Damme’s efforts to give acting a try.

Oh yeah, one note on the DVD: FULL-SCREEN ONLY?!? What the heck? If you’re going to put out a full-screen version, at least have the common courtesy to put out a widescreen version too. C’mon people! Is that really so much to ask? Sheesh.

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