Cinematic déjà vu can occur when you are watching a movie and all of its core elements are eerily familiar. Only superficial dimensions of the film are original, the fundamental plot, characters, settings all evoke other films, signaling the producer’s desire to capitalize on a tried and true formula. Yesterday, this column reviewed “Olympus Has Fallen” a recent action film that uses the “Die Hard” formula. In the 1990s, this was very common among action movies. An example is “Sudden Death,” from 1995.
“Sudden Death” begins with fireman Darren McCord (played by Jean-Claude Van Damme) trying to save a little girl from a burning building. The girl dies, and Darren is so despondent he can no longer work on the front lines of a fire department. A few years later, he is getting by as the fire marshal for the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. He scores tickets to a big game and brings his kids, Tyler and Emily. Of course, this is no ordinary game as the vice president (played by Raymond J. Barry) is in attendance and ruthless terrorists have taken him and others in the luxury both hostage. “Die Hard” fans will recall that a high rise in Los Angeles was the setting for a similar scenario. The leader of the nefarious group (played by Powers Boothe) is reminiscent of the Hans Gruber character in “Die Hard.” He executes a sinister plan that involves detonating strategically placed bombs unless bucket loads of money get wired to off shore accounts. Darren is at the game largely for work reasons. When Emily runs off after a fight with her brother, she is found by one of the bad guys and tossed in with the hostages. As Darren tries to find her, he learns about the situation and tries to find a way to stop it. And just as John McClane could disable bombs and thwart gun wielding bad guys at every turn, so too can Darren McCord.
“Sudden Death” is well directed by Peter Hyams. He is very good at creating suspense and staging action scenes. In one of the movie’s best scenes, Darren gets into a big fight with a bad guy who is dressed as a mascot.
Even though the film is similar to “Die Hard,” it is still fun to watch. “Sudden Death” is a solid choice for action fans.