16th Dec2020

‘Welcome to Sudden Death’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Michael Jai White, Michael Eklund, Sabryn Rock, Nakai Takawira, Lyric Justice, Sagine Sémajuste, Gary Owen, Anthony Grant, Kristen Harris, Marrese Crump | Written by Dallas Jackson, Gene Quintano | Directed by Dallas Jackson

It started last year, with the release of Benchwarmers 2… Which is when I speculated that Universal’s DTV arm Universal 1440 Entertainment were scraping the bottom of the barrel. How little did I know. After being set up to produce sequels to Universal’s properties such as Death Race, Tremors and The Scorpion King, the company has in recent years has churned out sequels to Kindergarten Cop, Daddy Day Care, Cop and a Half, Honey, Bring it On and unexpected sequels to the likes of Backdraft, Bulletproof and Undercover Brother.

Speaking of which, Michael Jai White – who starred in the aforementioned blaxploitation comedy film – is back working with Universal’s DTV arm for Welcome to Sudden Death. A sequel to the 1995 Jean Claude Van Dame film Sudden Death, which saw Van Damme feature in a Die Hard-esque story about a former fireman who takes on a group of terrorists holding the Vice President and others hostage during the seventh game of the NHL Stanley Cup finals.

This time round we have a former soldier, Jesse, played by White, who is working as a security guard at the Phoenix Falcons stadium. On the opening night of the basketball season he brings his kids along to watch the game. However on the same night a group of terrorists invade the stadium and take over the VIP suite and holding the new owner for ransom. It’s up to Jesse to take back the arena and save his own children from certain death.

As I said in my review of Bulletproof 2, who the hell expected THIS sequel? After all, it’s been 25 years since the original film was released and it’s not like Sudden Death made a huge mark in the mainstream consciousness. Yes, it has its fans – me included – and it is definitely one of Van Damme’s best films (but then why wouldn’t it be given is was directed by Peter Hyams) but I don’t think even hardcore fans of the film would have ever expected a sequel, let alone one about 23 years too late.

So how the hell do you make a follow-up to a two-decade old film without the original stars or director? Well for one you essentially remake the first film in a new locale with new actors but with the same, slightly updated, terrorist plot. Oh, and you reference Die Hard in a weird meta way, as if to reinforce that you know this is a derivative action film. What you also do is base your script on a story by Gene Quintano, the writer of the original film; though given the fact Quintano hasn’t written a film since 2004 I doubt he had too much of a hand in this one!

Maybe it would’ve been better to give Quintano the writing reins… after all he did a much better job with the original film than the script here. Whilst both films are Die Hard clones there’s a world of different between the two films. The original was a tight fast-paced action film that made the most of the “sudden death” deadline concept to create a thrilling action movie that was further padded out by Van Damme’s action movie chops. Here we have Michael Jai White’s action movie chops being wasted in a film that doesn’t really require someone of White’s skills – he only gets a few chances to show of his fighting skills and when he does it just looks over choreographed. There’s no brutality here, it’s all style and no substance – which is most evident in a ridiculous locker room three on one fight set to a soundtrack by Cypress Hill. We have two guys how are obviously skilled in martial arts, like REALLY skilled, but who are made to fight in an overly-choreographed, overly short, fight. Yes it looks good but just doesn’t feel right.

But then that’s Welcome to Sudden Death as a whole. It’s got all the right parts and a great lead in Michael Jai White but the entire film feels off. Maybe its the generic, flat way the film is shot; or maybe it’s just the fact that this particular sequel is even more derivative than the original. Whatever the reason, Dallas Jackson’s film ends up being just like the rest of Universal 1440 Entertainment’s recent output… Passable but nothing outstanding. It certainly wouldn’t warrant another sequel that’s for sure!

**½  2.5/5

Welcome to Sudden Death is available on VOD now.


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