December 25, 1995 -- ``Sudden Death'' is the latest ``Die Hard'' clone action movie to explode onto the screen in Laramie.
The film stars martial arts actor Jean-Claude Van Damme as a fireman with a troubled past who must save his children and several thousand fans from death by explosion at the final game of the Stanley Cup.
Powers Boothe stars as the head bad guy and Dorian Harewood is a secret service agent. Boothe and his band of professional killers sneak into the hockey game and hold the Vice President of the United States hostage in return for ransom.
Boothe threatens to kill the vice president and blow up the whole arena if he doesn't get his loot. Boothe also holds Van Damme's daughter as one of the hostages. So Van Damme has to find and disarm the bombs and rescue his daughter single-handedly.
Several minor things bothered me about this film. One problem is that Van Damme's credentials in the martial arts are not established in the film. How is it a firemen knows enough to out-duel professional killers at their own game? In ``Die Hard,'' for instance, Bruce Willis is an experienced cop, so it figures he can shoot a gun and fight. In ``Under Siege,'' Steven Seagal is an ex-Navy Seal, so he has both the training and experience, not to mention some other sailors to help him recapture the ship.
Another problem I had with the film is the use of the cheapest gimmick available, i.e. putting a child in harm's way, as a plot device. How low can they sink? That is almost as bad as having a main character die as a cheap tear-jerker device.
Another problem is that the ``Die Hard'' formula requires a strong lead character. Van Damme's acting skills are lacking. Even Seagal has more screen presence and Willis looks like Olivier compared to Van Damme.
The bad guys in the film also violate the Tucco Rule (from the Good, the Bad and the Ugly): ``If you're going to shoot, shoot, don't talk.'' It also uses the crooked shooting bad guy fallacy. The bad guys shoot with deadly accuracy, killing lots of people in the film, but can never hit Van Damme.
On the other hand, the film does have good special effects and stunt work. Van Damme does fight scenes well. That is his specialty. The film also makes good use of the hockey arena location and uses the hockey game as a sort of ``High Noon'' time framework for the film.
Although this is an uninspired re-working of the ``Die Hard'' formula, it is probably O.K. as mindless holiday entertainment. It rates a C.
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