After the success of "Die Hard" there have been many movie clones of that great action film. There was "Die Hard on a Ship" ("Under Siege"), "Die Hard on a Train" ("Under Siege 2"), and "Die Hard on a Bus" ("Speed"), just to name a few. "Sudden Death" can be described as either "Die Hard on the Ice", "Die Hard at a Hockey Game" or "Die Hard in an Arena". You pick. Technically you could put all three titles into this movie and it'll still be pretty much the same thing. However, "Sudden Death" is one of the better "Die Hard" clones. It's an exciting movie about terrorists taking over the Pittsburgh Civic Arena where the decisive seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks is being played. However there's a little difference here. The only people who know that hostages have taken over are the people in the VIP box (which includes the Vice President), the Secret Service men outside the arena, and an arena fire marshall who's two little kids are attending the game. The 17,000-plus fans attending the game have no idea whats really going on. That fire marshall is played by Belgian action star Jean-Claude Van Damme. I've not been a big fan of Van Damme's films, but "Sudden Death" is easily his best movie to date. Van Damme plays Darren McCord, the fire marshall who finds out something's wrong when his little daughter is taken to the VIP box as a hostage after witnessing a killing. When McCord finds out what's going on, he does precisely what Bruce Willis did in "Die Hard", takes on the terrorists all by himself. The lead bad guy is portrayed by Powers Boothe in a frightening performance. He may not be quite as effective as Alan Rickman's villain in "Die Hard", but Boothe does a good job at being mean. Van Damme is also very good too (especially in one scene where he poses as the Penguins goalie to hide out from the bad guys who were chasing him). He's much better here than he was in "Timecop", teaming again with "Timecop" director Peter Hyams. The action scenes are splendid (both the gunplay and the action during the game), and the suspense has you on the edge. "Sudden Death" has a few silly moments here and there, but since this movie is such a good thrill ride, you won't care. This movie deserved to be a big hit at the box office and wasn't. I'll never understand why. ***1/2 (out of four)
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A former fireman takes on a group of terrorists holding the Vice President and others hostage during the seventh game of the NHL Stanley Cup finals.
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April 4, 2019