Wednesday, 13 June 2018

June-Claude Van Damme: Sudden Death (1995)

AKA Die Hard at an ice hockey match.
AAKA the one in which Van Damme fights someone in a big penguin mascot outfit.

Jean-Claude Van Damme is a traumatised fireman who now works as a fire marshall at an ice hockey stadium. He's also the father of two kids that live with his ex-wife, and she isn't impressed when he just stops by to announce that he has tickets for a big game happening that very evening. Relenting, but with a warning not to do it again, the mother allows the kids to go with their father, who takes them along, settles them in for the match, and then starts his standard work duties. The timing is unfortunate, because a very nasty man (Powers Boothe) has chosen that evening to take a number of hostages, including the Vice President (Raymond J. Barry), and make himself a very rich man with the help of some armed accomplices and a number of bombs.

Directed by Peter Hyams, responsible for a number of entertaining Van Damme vehicles, Sudden Death is much more interested in fun and thrills than any kind of tension or believability. The script by Gene Quintano, based on a story/idea from Karen Elise Baldwin, does what is needed to get everything in place (the people involved, the bombs, the police on the outside) and then concentrates on either creating enjoyable set-pieces or letting Powers Boothe be as mean as possible, even if he's talking to a small child. Think about everything for more than a few seceonds and the silliness means that it falls apart but Hyams keeps things moving along briskly enough to distract you from minor details like logic.

Despite a decent smattering of supporting players, including Barry, this film really belongs to Van Damme and Boothe. It would be easy to call it a battle of braun vs brains but our hero also gets to show moments of ingenuity as he desperately tries to save a building full of people who are blissfully unaware of the danger they are in. He also manages to keep an admirably straight face while taking part in that aforementioned fight against someone in a big penguin mascot outfit. Boothe gives a performance that deserves to sit right up there alongside the better action movie villain turns from the '80s and '90s. He's calm, cocky, and without any hint of redeemable qualities.

I'm not sure if this remains an underseen film, it certainly feels as if it came along at the very end of Van Damme's initial wave of popularity (his filmography starts to get pretty spotty from now on, to say the least), but I highly recommend it to action movie fans, especially if you don't mind something with a bit of polish and some humour in the mix.


The blu is here.
Americans can buy it here.

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