Coming towards the back-end of Jean-Claude Van Damme's popularity with movie-goers (although the fans would stick with him), "Sudden Death" would be an huge improvement over his previous feature "Street Fighter" but only to be short-lived with what was to follow in the late-90s. Really he didn't fall away like some other 80s and 90s action stars, but actually made some decent features even if they were straight to video. Anyhow "Sudden Death" would be directed (and photographed) by Peter Hyams, who previously in the year before guided Van Damme in "Timecop". What we get is a fashionably conventional, but tautly exciting siege standoff like something in the sorts of "Die Hard", although done during a sporting spectacle meaning a stadium load of victims (at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena) are virtually unaware of the danger. Van Damme is the only one who can stop these terrorists who are holding the American vice-president for ransom in a private box. These guys mean business. Powers Boothe is terrifically commanding and genuinely threatening. While quite suave and quick with a witty response, he's one you wouldn't want to get on his bad side as there's no hesitations in the way he gets about things. Van Damme's ex-fire-fighter character (who is scared by a past incident) gets involved when his daughter is kidnapped and he goes about trying to spoil the terrorist's party by disabling their bombs while also taking some of them out. The expansive set-up might have been done to death and is elaborately plotted, but Hyams perfectly delivers the martial arts combat of its star (where can you see Van Damme take on the Pittsburgh Penguins' mascot) and the suspense of the situation to go with it. While slow and steady to start, where it feels played down suddenly becomes an assault on the senses with its busy pacing and bruising, brutal and unsparing violence that builds up to a heart stopping finale.
"My daddy's a fireman."