SUDDEN DEATH is a Jean Claude Van Damme action film. If you feel
like a DIE HARD II type of movie and are ready to switch your brain to
autopilot, this movie will provide an acceptable time at the Bijou.
Sometimes after a hard week at work, you want a little fast paced
albeit highly implausible compendium of chases and shoot 'em ups.
It's the seventh game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Darren McCord
(Jean Claude Van Damme) is an ex-firefighter who quite years ago after
a frightening rescue attempt of a small girl. He is now a fire
inspector at the big dome stadium where the game will be played. He
has two tickets so he takes his son (Ross Malinger) and daughter
(Whittni Wright) to the game with him.
At the game, renegade government operative Joshua Foss (Powers
Boothe) breaks into the box of the Vice President of the United States.
He calls the president and demands that he transfer zillions of dollars
to foreign banks or he will kill people at the end of each period and
then kill everyone in the stadium at the end of the game. Think about
the title, and you can write most of the rest of the movie yourself
without Gene Quintano's simplistic script. Most of the movie consists
of McCord single-handedly disarming the bombs while Foss's large team
of bad guys try to stop him.
The director (Peter Hyams) has a Spartan approach that sticks to
action (read killing) without much worry about plausibility. I never
realized how many ways there are to kill people in a kitchen. The
lines are broadly written and sometimes funny. When the Vice President
asks Foss what he wants, Foss replies, "What do I want? World peace, an
end to bigotry, and no more mini-malls." The pacing by editor Steven
Kemper is clean and crisp.
This movie is pure escapism and action scenes. Think of it as DIE
HARD II crossed with BLACK SUNDAY. If that is what you want, you could
worse that SUDDEN DEATH. Every once and a while, play-by-play
announcer Mike Lange would come on with such tidbits as, "He hit his
head on the ice. He hit it so hard that his kids will be born dizzy."
Not particularly original, but funny nevertheless.
I find Jean Claude Van Damme a strange actor. He does not have
the charisma of a Steven Seagal or the energy of a Bruce Lee and yet
his low key approach to killing bad guys holds a certain fascination no
matter how ridiculous. Powers Boothe is always good as an evil figure
and here he gives his standard performance. The best scene of all, and
one worthy of a much higher quality movie, is the one where Van Damme
gets to suit up and go on the ice. It is wonderful.
SUDDEN DEATH runs 1:50. It is rated R for massive violence which
sometimes makes you squeamish but more often is more cartoonish than
anything. After you see scores of people killed with little small
bullet holes in the head, it becomes more unreal than frightening. I
think the show is acceptable for teenagers if they are mature. I can
not bring myself to recommend SUDDEN DEATH, but it did provide a nice
diversion albeit a totally forgettable one. I give the film **.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes