It’s been a long time in coming, but Sudden Death (1995) has finally been released on Blu Ray. Why the delay, who knows. Hard Target (1993) has been similarly delayed, it seems someone in transfer land doesn’t like Van Damme. Anyway, ManlyMovie pays reference to Die Hard a lot. Good reason for that, no explanation needed. In the ’90s, they even had a term for movies like this, they called them ‘Die Hard Clones’. I haven’t heard that in a while, probably because they don’t make movies like Die Hard anymore, or even try to. Sudden Death is Van Dame’s own ‘Die Hard’. Even Seagal had one, but his was on a hijacked destroyer as opposed to a hijacked hockey arena. This film is one of the final movies of what I like to see as the golden era of ballsy action (Early ’80s to mid ’90s). Unfortunately one of JCVD’s last good films too. If action movies were collectors items, then even though this may not be the best action movie ever, it would be more sought after for being one of the last.
Peter Hyams made this film. The guy shouldn’t need an introduction by now. Is he McTiernan or Cameron? Nah, not on that level. But he’s a pro, and here he’s given a Die Hard send up as a tool. Its like something as reliable as a sledgehammer being given to someone who can use it with pinpoint accuracy. Then there’s Van Damme. He’s solid in this movie, but not on top form. No fault of his own though, they seemed to hold back on using him. He’s about in his prime here, which is kinda fucking depressing because if he didn’t his big contract negotiation (Ego) and fucked it all up, we should have seen him do this right to 2000 and beyond. But the demise of his meal-ticket genre in general is also to blame for that. Powers Boothe, we meet again. He’s here to do the Alan Rickman thing. And hey, that’s perfect for him, this is no second-rate ripoff. I’m positive he would have had a good chance for the original 1988 role. And you know what? I like watching him just as much as the good guy. That’s how you sell a villain.
This is kind of a restrained movie in terms of action. Van Damme is never quite in fifth gear or overly intense, though he does put in a relatively good acting performance. I think they were going for thriller more than action, a poor decision. I expected more from Van Damme’s fight scenes, but they’re still better than a lot of movies. But don’t worry, the old ’80s/’90s DNA is definitely here. E.g. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Uzi’s in one movie than I have in this one – and the villain’s seem to love firing them. This is one of those movies where shooting a man once, or even 5 times isn’t enough. He has to be shot 15-20 times, and usually shirts will explode with a garden full of squibs. I fuckin’ love that, no CGI here.
The Blu Ray release itself is a lazy release. Starting with a weak cover and packaging, about as budget and minimalist as you’re going to see. No steel books here, that’s for sure. Worse are the features on this release, or lack thereof. There isn’t a single featurette, there isn’t even a theatrical trailer. Forget about commentary from Hyams, or anyone else involved in production for that matter. Not here either. The only thing left to mention is the picture and sound transfer. These days, we’re so adjusted to high definition that only hardcore audio/visual freaks heavily scrutinize picture quality, it’s only really worth a mention if the transfer is either extremely poor or extremely beautiful. Sudden Death’s picture quality is, like 90% of other HD releases, ‘very good’, which honestly we should be thankful for. And given the laziness of this release and the age of the movie, should translate as ‘great’ news. The picture runs at a nice 30mb/s+ and the audio 4-5mb/s+ DTS-HD, definitely demanding of an upgrade from that puny DVD master.
Put simply, if you’re a fan of this movie and a Blu Ray player owner, and by now you should be both, this is borderline essential because of the transfer and movie itself, bare bones or not. It’s not Van Damme’s best, but in hindsight, my appreciation for Sudden Death has only gone up.