Sunday, 18 May 2008

Sudden Death


Directed by: Peter Hyams
Screenplay: Gene Quintano
Starring: Jean Claude Van Damme, Dorian Haywood & Powers Boothe

An overlooked gem from Van Damme’s heyday, Sudden Death is a straight laced, action packed thriller that shoots into overtime and wins with an energetic mix of action, crazy stunts and knowing winks at the genre we all love. A carbon copy of Die Hard as a film can get, without actually being a Die Hard film, Sudden Death is nevertheless one of the better spin offs. Terrorists show up at an ice hockey game the Vice President is attending and set about killing folks and demanding all kind of crazy things. It’s then up to fireman Van Damme, whose own kids have got caught up in the mix, to stop them and well staged mayhem unfolds.

Sudden Death is a hoot. It may not be original but it has many things going for it that make it a Grade A action flick. Van Damme is on fine form getting to run, jump and kick his way through various bad guys in what has to be one of his biggest budget flicks. The action is slick and at times brutal, combining intense fire power with creative fights and stunt work. The pace never slackens and the action is well staged. It all gets a little ludicrous by the end with helicopters falling into the ice rink and Van Damme saving the deciding goal in the hockey game when he is supposed to be saving his kids. But it’s all pulled off with flair with Hyams slick photography giving a very polished look to proceedings.

But that’s not all. Sudden Death has one of the best villains action movies have seen. Powers Boothe (Rapid Fire) is seething with slimy evil as the ruthless leader of the terrorists. His put downs, sharp suit and the fact he shoots to kill first time make him a deliciously vile bad guy who with his pithy remarks elicits as many laughs as he does chills. He seems to be having fun and he certainly makes for a memorable bad guy. Special mention should also go to a great set piece: Van Damme Vs a giant penguin. Yep the muscles from Brussels faces off with a terrorist disguised as the hockey team’s mascot (a penguin) in a fight that is both hilarious and brutally bruising. A nod by the filmmakers to how ridiculous action films can be? Maybe, but still a great fight anyway.

Peter Hyams, who also directed Van Damme in the equally entertaining Timecop, keeps proceedings efficient and tight. Flick has a fairly violent edge to it as well, something that has since vanished from a lot of action films. While never overly gratuitous there are several shock moments when hostages are killed in cold blood which perhaps sits a little uneasy with the fun element of the film. Still, this is how they used to make them and this is still one of Van Damme’s best if not one of his most well known.

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