Saturday, September 28, 2013

Instant Action : Sudden Death (1995)

The Blackhawks were clearly on their way to losing that game...

Screenplay By: Gene Quintano
Directed By: Peter Hyams

There are obvious problems with this Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle. But, you know what, those obvious problems take an easy backseat to the elements of the film that work. I'm writing specifically of the action set pieces in the film. Sudden Death is a very well made action film, and that makes up for its deficiencies in other areas. Outside of Powers Boothe the acting is pretty bad, and the story is ridiculously cheesy. There's a moment when a character ends up playing goalie and the movie almost grinds to a halt because of the stupidity of that moment. Sudden Death does a lot of stupid things, but every time it does something stupid it follows up said stupidity with a well placed, and well done, action set piece.

I'll admit to not being the biggest fan of Meneer Van Damme. I enjoyed Kickboxer and Bloodsport, and I loved the heck out of the terribleness that is Street Fighter. Outside of those films I usually tuned out of his action films quite easily. 2008's JCVD was a recent exception, but even that wasn't enough to want to make me go back and check out more of Meneer Van Damme's work. I'm glad that I decided to watch Sudden Death because it allowed me to gain a new level of appreciation for the Muscles from Brussels. He doesn't do anything that incredible in Sudden Death, but I'll be damned if his heart isn't in the proceedings. He sells the action really well, and he even tries like heck to sell the moments of cornball earnestness. I'm still not a member of the Jean-Claude Van Damme fan club, but his performance in Sudden Death reminded me that he can be a damn fine action star.

The draw of Sudden Death is simple, the action. When it comes to action Sudden Death is a highly technically proficient film. The best example of this is the gloriously over the top Penguins mascot battle. Peter Hyams doesn't draw back when the hero of his films starts trading blows with a woman in a penguin costume. Instead he moves in closer and revels in the zaniness of the action. I appreciated the way Mr. Hyams went about filming the action in Sudden Death. I had a huge grin on my face during the penguin fight, due as much to the inventiveness of the action as to the idea of a person in a penguin suit throwing down with the lead of the film I was watching.

It's obvious that Sudden Death is a Die Hard knockoff. As far as such knockoffs go Sudden Death is one of the better entries. It's by no means a terrible film, although certain aspects of Sudden Death do qualify as terrible. Sudden Death is a well made action film that knows where its strengths reside and puts most of its pieces in place to play up to said strength. There's a lot of fun to be had with Sudden Death, and that's why when I finished watching Sudden Death I was one happy camper.



Bill Thompson

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