Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Sudden Death.”
The Movie: “Sudden Death”
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Powers Boothe, Raymond J. Barry
Director: Peter Hyams
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) 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.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 50 percent
Brown: The JOE-DOWN is sharpening up its skates again. To karate kick a hired goon with our skate.
Every Sports Month, I like to find a hockey movie, because that seems to be the sport that Froemming dislikes the most. Except for “Goon.” I think Froemming picked that because he is a legit goon.
So I had to find a way to get us back on the ice. And this time, we pulled in one of the founding fathers of the JOE-DOWN: Jean-Claude Van Damme.
“Sudden Death” was a movie that I vaguely remember the ads for when it came out in 1995. Honestly, I got it mixed up with the premise of “The Fan.”
Never did I imagine a JCVD joint being essentially a “Die Hard” sequel. And probably JCVD’s best movie that we’ve seen.
Froemming, I’m going to take a seat. And I will not get up, even if the building blows up around me. While I do that, give me your initial thoughts.
Froemming: I think you forgot to pick a sports movie, chief. This is “Die Hard” at a stadium that happens to have hockey in the background.
Brown: Hey now, JCVD played goalie for about two minutes in this.
Froemming: Despite Brown not knowing what a sports movie is, “Sudden Death” was a movie I had never seen before. And, frankly, it continues my opinion that in the 1980s-90s, nobody was safe from domestic terrorists taking over a building with an elaborate and often confusing game plan. Couldn’t go to Christmas parties, airports, banks or even malls without heavily-armed strange men in suits taking things over. It was a dangerous time in America.
What did I think about this movie? We will see. It has a lot going for it.
- Chekov’s Super Soaker
- Furry fighting
- Powers Boothe dressing like MCA in the “Sabotage” video.
Brown, as I crash my ex-wife’s dinner plans by flashing tickets to a hockey game to our children, why don’t you kick this off.
Brown: Not four minutes into this movie, we get a dead child.
The movie opens with a group of firefighters dealing with a burning house in Pittsburgh. Darren McCord (JCVD) has saved a little girl but is caught under some rubble. As he yells for help, some more burning rubble falls on McCord, surely killing both he and the girl.
… Or, just the young girl. Because JCVD needs some survivor’s guilt. This incident will haunt him as he becomes the Pittsburgh Fire Department’s Terry Jeffords. Wonder if he loves yogurt as much as Terry, because Terry loves yogurt.
Froemming: Cut to a few years later, and Darren shows up on his son’s birthday — uninvited. He is crashing the birthday dinner his ex-wife had planned for the family with tickets to the Stanley Cup that night.
These kinds of power plays parents pull are ugly.
The children, excited to see the big game, decide they rather do that than spend the night with their mom. Darren is a real sunofabitch.
And not only is it the big game, but the vice president of the United States will be there. Great, this movie can only get the one in the Oval Office with basically a ceremonial-only position. We get some weird Democrat-Republican nonsense because of this. It is awkward. At least the president in this is not happy the domestic terrorists are threating the guy.
Also, I know McCord is the fire marshal and all, but A. how does he score two Game 7 Stanley Cup tickets so easily when those could make a mint for the team. And B. why are the kids so nonchalant about it. They treat the idea of going to this game like it’s preseason or something.
ALSO, it’s a weird juxtaposition when McCord shows up and his son Tyler gives him a big hug. But later, Tyler will be talking to his sister Emily and making fun of their dad for being a pencil pusher instead of a REAL fireman.
As for Emily… she gets the lazy writer character. Instead of developing her as any sort of person, they make her personality on par with something Zooey Deschanel would be cast in. Emily’s personality is saying “I love you” in sign language and stamping people’s hands because reasons. Being annoyingly quirky isn’t a real character trait.
Froemming: We don’t need character traits or development, Brown. We have terrorists about to take over the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. All it takes is gumption, guns, bombs and a lamenating machine to fake IDs!
Brown: When they do the time lapses before the game, it has the VP showing up 20 minutes before the opening faceoff. You’d think a VIP would have to be there earlier to help all the security clearance… Nope.
Also, I laughed when one of the hired goons, the one that hijacks the cop car, looked like Matt Stone from “South Park.” Maybe somewhere there’s drunken commentary of Matt and his friends discussing “Sudden Death” like with “Cannibal: The Musical.”
Froemming: Darren introduces his daughter to the mascot while his son gets to go into the locker room and embarrass him in front of the players. The mascot part is silly, but important for what is to come later.
He then introduces them to the chef. Why does a hockey stadium in the 1990s need gourmet chef? Don’t know.
Brown: The rich people get gourmet food because hot dogs are beneath them. I went to a Minnesota Twins game and sat in the diamond section behind home plate. They had (REDACTED) brussel sprouts at a ballgame!
Froemming: That honestly sounds horrible.
Brown: The section had free alcohol they’d deliver you (you had to tip like a MFer), so take the good with the bad.
Froemming: But he is there and this is when the children see Darren basically changes light bulbs and whatnot.
Now cut to a little old lady in a garden and some hired goon shows up with a gun and tells her to go into the house. This is the chef’s wife. Seems like this is going overkill on getting into the press box, because there is little planning on what if someone discovers their elaborate plot and tries to stop them. None of the pay phones work later on, at some point people will get suspicious. Plus all the gunfire would probably attract some attention.
Anyway, Darren has the kids it in their seats and tells them not to leave. Because he is working. How is this family time when he isn’t even sitting with his children during the game?
Brown: Everyone knows the best babysitters are drunk sports fans.
I thought by using the chef to gain access to the owner’s box that the VP was going to die by shrimp cocktail. Instead, the terrorists sneak via (apparently) the only elevator into the owner’s box. Which can only be accessed through the kitchen.
Froemming: Sounds like a fire hazard. If only they had a fire marshal to make sure these sort of safety measures were up to snuff…
Brown: They got only the second best fire marshal. Fire Marshal Bill wasn’t on retainer in Pittsburgh.
I’d be more upset by the whole kitchen elevator bit if we didn’t get two hilariously awesome fights in said kitchen.
At the head of this terrorist operation is former CIA operative Joshua Foss, played by Powers Boothe.
… I legit thought the actor’s name was Joshua Foss and the character was Powers Boothe. I refuse to believe Powers Boothe isn’t a stage name.
Froemming: He was named after his dad’s friend who died in WW2. Not a good look for you right now, pal.
Brown: Always with the gaslighting, Froemming.
Froemming: Also, Powers Boothe is a great character actor.
Boothe is chewing scenery in this and I love every minute of it.
Brown: Oh yeah, Powers Boothe, or whatever his real name is, is fantastic here. Full-on ham from a villain who looks one part David Puddy, one part Elon Musk.
Froemming: And he is unrelenting in his plan. He shoots and kills people without a second thought. There is no negotiating with a man like this. He will blow up the damn stadium if his plan does not work.
His plan? To have frozen foreign assets in the billions to be funneled to various bank accounts. He does not expect to get all that money. He is banking basically on the spillage of around $50 million or so. The money that ends up not being accounted for. This part of the plan makes sense to me. Hijacking a sports arena? Well, that is Crazy Town.
Brown: I figure the writers had this sweet title and they were going to shoehorn it into an action movie, goddamnit.
Plus, we need to be grateful that this took place at not just a sports arena, but the old Igloo in Pittsburgh. Because we wouldn’t get one of the greatest fight scenes ever.
After noticing that Emily left her seat, McCord starts looking for his daughter. He sees her with Iceburgh, the Penguins’ mascot. They head off to the kitchen elevator.
Froemming: We need to briefly mention Chekov’s Super Soaker.
Brown: Yes. In my excitement, I blanked on that.
Froemming: Emily ran because her brother squirted her with his gun and made her drop her ice cold Coke. She runs off and Darren takes the gun from his boy when he finds out his daughter is missing.
Now back to the furry fight!
Brown: See, McCord thinks it’s his friend Joan from earlier under the mask. Instead, it’s one of the terrorists and well… this has to be seen to be believed.
You know I’m saying yes to this movie after watching a woman in a penguin costume get killed in a dishwasher. This is the real-life equivalent to all those Peter Griffin vs. Chicken fights in “Family Guy.”
And the whole (REDACTED) thing comes out of NOWHERE!
Froemming, what was your favorite part of this brawl? Mine’s gotta be using the red pepper flakes to blind the mascot.
Froemming: Oh yeah, when he pocket-sands her with pepper was the best part!
He then runs into another hired goon to explain how he murdered the Pittsburg mascot with a washing machine, but when they get to the kitchen, the body is gone.
Brown: Did they ever explain where her body went?
Froemming: I just assumed she went back to her home planet…
Well, he gets into it with this guy and, well, it is another great fight scene where he uses the man’s head as hamburger on a piping hot grill. The guy then spills the beans on the plan, only to get killed anyway.
Brown: The hired goon got killed by a broken turkey leg bone!
There is literally zero reason for another kitchen fight, but goddamn, I’m glad they put it in. I think it exists only because they saw the first one with the mascot and thought “Hey, there’s still a lot of fun we can have with this setting.” They had to get all their kitchen fighting gags out of their system before moving on with the movie.
I’d venture to say the movie doesn’t hit a peak this high again. Then again, we hit the Everest summit with the mascot fight.
Since the key got lost in the mascot fight, McCord has no way of reaching the owner’s box. Again, there’s a lot of problems with having ONLY ONE entry into a room.
Needing to save his daughter now, McCord goes to his son and basically terrifies him into staying in his seat NO. MATTER. WHAT. Even if Twitch doofuses in masks working for the Riddler start flooding the arena do you move from your seat, Tyler!
JCVD, you don’t have to scare the kid to death. We’ve all seen how good you are at motivational speeches.
Froemming: Darren also has found one of the bombs and manages to dismantle it, which apparently is taught to fire fighters in this universe. It is around this point he meets Hallmark, a secret service guy who snuck into the stadium.
I knew right away this was going to be a double-agent scenario. We saw bombs and rockets launched at anyone trying to enter the building and this guy just walks right in?
Anyway, Hallmark sees Darren has some ideas where the bombs would be planted, because it is his job to know where explosions would cause the most structural damage. I think. His job is this, defusing bombs and changing light bulbs.
Brown: Apparently emergency services in Pittsburgh are so dire, fire marshals also work for the bomb squad? I’m going to Pittsburgh in two weeks and now I’m terrified.
Now, part of our villain’s plan is if a third of his money isn’t transferred per period of the hockey game, a hostage dies. After two periods, two hostages die. And at the end of the game, everybody dies. And considering McCord is the only one doing anything, well… everyone should get ready to die.
Hallmark appears to be on McCord’s side until we get a scene where Foss is talking to Hallmark outside the owner’s box.
This reveals two things. A. Hallmark is really a bad guy. B. There’s ANOTHER way to get up to the owner’s box, giving this movie a plot hole. There’s no reason for McCord to make a literal hole in the owner’s box later!
McCord revealed to Hallmark that not only is his daughter at the game, but his son is sitting at D-10.
So Hallmark tries in vain to get Tyler up to the owner’s box to be a hostage. But this kid is so (REDACTED) scared of his dad that he refuses to get out of his seat.
Froemming, who’s a more terrifying father: McCord or Homelander?
Froemming: Well, he won’t get out of his seat also because the guy had no idea his parents were divorced, thus a red flag for stranger danger. Tyler even threatens to scream if the guy tries touching him.
Also, no question Homelander is the more terrifying father.
Hallmark finds Darren again, only to stupidly reveal he is a bad guy. Why do they need to announce their true intentions instead of just shooting the heroes in these movies?
Brown: Were you bummed out like I was that the one black guy in this movie has to be evil?
Froemming: Yes. But also, sadly, not surprised.
Well, what Hallmark doesn’t know is Darren has a Super Soaker full of lighter fluid and a lighter.
Darren sets Hallmark on FIRE!
Not only that, now there are more goons after him, and at one point a burnt-to-shit Hallmark jumps at him…
No. No I don’t think someone with that severe of burns would be thinking about killing Darren. They would be thinking about how they should be in a hospital.
Brown: It’s here when McCord gets Hallmark’s phone and now has a direct line to Foss. They do the typical good guy-bad guy back-and-forth.
And not only did we get Chekov’s Super Soaker, we got Chekov’s hand stamp, courtesy of McCord’s daughter, Emily. More on that later.
Trying to find more of the bombs, McCord is chased down to the Penguins’ locker room and *checks notes* steals the uniform of the sick goaltender who took himself out of the game and goes onto the ice. And plays goalie for a couple minutes.
McCord says a line of exposition earlier in the movie about playing goalie a long, long time ago in Canada. And now, he gets thrown into Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Froemming: Well, if there are no rules on a dog playing junior high basketball, I assume there are no rules on a fire marshal impersonating a goalie in the Stanley Cup in a terrorism situation. If there is, I would like to see that rule, Brown.
Brown: It’s my off day. I’m not looking up any rule book.
Anyways, McCord makes a miraculous save. Then does the “I love you” sign language to his son in the stands…
This movie is so goddamn stupid. And I (REDACTED) love it.
Considering he’s wasted so much time with this goalie bit, McCord gets out of it by fighting a Chicago player and getting ejected. My question is, is he going to pay the fine for the goalie in the locker room he assumed the identity of? I’m guessing not; $1,000 seems steep on a fire marshal’s salary.
Also, before we go on with more action movie insanity, McCord has to take off all the goalie equipment. He came out with, what, three minutes of gametime left? There’s no way he gets fully dressed before that clock runs out.
But, not only does he do that, but he goes into a room and mixes a bunch of stuff in a Mason jar. I assume he’s either cooking up an explosive he found in “The Anarchist’s Cookbook” or he’s making a sourdough starter.
The Penguins manage to tie the game at the buzzer, bringing the game to… SUDDEN DEATH!
Froemming: This buys everyone some time, because Foss is a stickler to rules.
Darren, meanwhile, thinks now is the time to get on the roof of this igloo for…some reason. It just gives him a reason to beat up goons on the roof, and then he can slide down on cables to the top of the press box so he can blow his way into it. Like it says we can in the Constitution!
Everything in this movie seems way more complicated than it needs to be.
Anyway, he knocks one of these goons into the thing that shows the score, somehow causing it to explode like a bomb.
That..that’s not how things work.
But it does get the crowd to finally realize things are not as they seem. They probably should have noticed this when he was running over them in their seats as he was trying to escape the bad guys before he decided to be the goalie for a few minutes, but maybe they were too drunk to notice.
Also, how did he do that and not get his ass kicked by drunken hockey fans?
Brown: Right? It’s hockey fans. THEY PAID FOR BLOOD!
Quick note: While one of the money transfers were going on late in the movie, I appreciated seeing the computer whiz using one of the monitors to play “Doom.” Good ‘90s touch.
Anyways, after the scoreboard, well, explodes, McCord goes the full McClain by swinging off camera rigs and lights. He threw his sourdough starter onto the roof of the owner’s box and finally gets in. But during the pandemonium, Foss sneaks off.
McCord has saved Emily. Then he goes down to the stands, where Tyler is STILL sitting in his seat with no sense of self-preservation whatsoever. The beta male he is, Tyler gleefully cries about never leaving his seat.
I think McCord may be a worse dad than Homelander.
Froemming: We also see Foss get into disguise for his escape. He dresses as Sir Stewart Wallace, who famously played himself in the Beastie Boys music video “Sabotage.”
Honestly, Foss would have been better off just hiring computer nerds to steal the money from the banks. This whole ordeal seems a bit much.
Brown: Because of Emily’s stamp, she realizes that Sir Stewart Wallace is Foss. Knowing he’s been sabotaged, Foss takes Emily and takes her up to the roof of the Igloo.
From here… I thought they were going to rip off the ending to Tim Burton’s “Batman.” Not quite. But… it’s pretty goddamn dumb.
Froemming: Well, Matt Reeves got awfully close to ripping this arena stunt off in his “The Batman.” Full circle, my friend.
McCord and Foss fight atop the scoreboard. Foss gets the upper hand when he shoots McCord after McCord takes a bullet for his daughter. An escape helicopter arrives to take Foss, only for McCord to get back up and start shooting the chopper.
One of the bullets kills the pilot and the helicopter *checks notes* falls through the hole in the Igloo roof WITHOUT CLIPPING THE SCOREBOARD, crashes and explodes on the ice.
There’s no (REDACTED) way that scoreboard survives that ordeal. JCVD and his daughter should be next-level dead.
Instead, McCord is put in an ambulance while his kids talk about what a hero he is.
A hero who killed a mascot.
Froemming, let’s get to recommendations while I put on my Nathan Wind as Cochese mustache and wig.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: A thousand times, yes. A (REDACTED) person in a penguin costume fights JCVD. That alone should put this in your movie collection.
Froemming: Yes, this movie has no right being as good as it is.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: