20 May 2010 | tonymurphylee
Definitely one of the most intense action films of the 90s
This time, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a traumatized firefighter who takes his two children to a Stanley Cup game that the vice-president is attending. Unfortunately several people, including Van Damme's daughter as well as the vice-president, are taken hostage by a deranged CIA member and his team of suited up goons. Their plan is to kill one hostage each quarter if their continuously outrageous demands for absurd amounts of money are not met. If they still don't have their money by the end of the game, the arena and all of the people inside will be detonated. Van Damme ends up having to do battle with these creeps while trying to disarm the bombs. Eventually when the game nears it's end he also ends up having to do everything in his power to get the hockey game to continue.
This is easily one of the most intense and nerve-wracking Van Damme films. Obviously it's just another Die Hard-ripoff, but it has more to offer than most Die Hard-ripoffs that came out in the 90s. For starters, the villains in this are real villains. They have absolutely no qualms with killing any innocent people, and they do it about as casually and as constantly as a real bad guy should. A lot of people get killed in this film, and a good portion of the victims are innocent bystanders. Powers Boothe is actually pretty damn scary! The first third of the film has a pretty high bodycount, and the bloodshed starts off almost immediately. Sure, the villains aren't as sadistic as the villains in, say, the second Die Hard film, but I don't think that anyone is going to dispute that these bad guys are pretty bad. One thing this film does exceptionally well, however, is allow the action set-pieces to be implemented in some pretty cool ways. There's a fight scene in the kitchen involving a team mascot gone mad in which all the deadly and dangerous hazards become tools. There's a lot of really slick gore and some really shocking moments of bodily harm that make this film a lot more memorable. What really makes the film work, however, is the final act where things get down to the wire and it becomes all about survival. I won't spoil what happens, but the last few action set-pieces are spectacular in their creativity and in their energy.
Van Damme also does a fine job as usual as the hero who ends up having to do everything by himself. He shows about as much charisma as expected for the role, but since he's playing a father he remembers to keep it in check a lot of the time too. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but don't expect a lot of moments of sly little comments like you would find in Bloodsport. I don't mind so much either way, it's just that this isn't the goofy Van Damme that was in Double Impact, but it's not the hardened stonefaced loner in Hard Target. This Van Damme lies somewhere in between those, though leaning more toward the Hard Target Van Damme. As long as he isn't the loudly shrieking crucified idiot that he was in Cyborg, I don't have any problem. I think one thing that made this a little more unique is the fact that he's trying to rescue his child rather than rescue a woman who simply knows too much. This helped make the film much more simple to digest and it also gave it that little emotional kick that never hurts in a good action film.
I like my action films to be raw and gut-wrenching, and Van Damme's films usually deliver the goods. Sudden Death is definitely no exception. It's an intense and explosive film that is entertaining as hell and has plenty of good shocks. It's not a good film by any means, but if you're looking for action that is brutal, Sudden Death is easily one of the more entertaining films of the 90s, and plus there aren't a lot of films where a bad guy is killed by getting shoved into a dishwasher.