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  Sudden Death The Good Old Hockey Game
Year: 1995
Director: Peter Hyams
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Powers Boothe, Raymond J. Barry, Whittni Wright, Ross Malinger, Dorian Harewood, Kate McNeil, Michael Gaston, Audra Lindley, Brian Delate, Paul Mochnik, Jay Caulfield, Rohn Thomas, Faith Minton, Michael R. Aubele, Manny Perry
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Darren McCord (Jean-Claude Van Damme) used to be a fireman until a tragedy forced him to quit: he was trapped while trying to save a little girl, but sadly she didn't make it. Now, two years later, he is a fire marshall at a Pittsburgh hockey stadium and today wants to bring his two kids, Tyler (Ross Malinger) and Emily (Whittni Wright) to see the finals, but his ex-wife isn't too keen, telling him he'll see them tomorrow. Yet McCord wants to impress his kids, and persuades his ex to let him take them along, little knowing of the danger that awaits. There is a plan being put into effect that will place every life in the stadium at risk, and the man behind it is Joshua Foss (Powers Boothe); what he wants is a huge sum of money and he's willing to kill to get it.

Die Hard was such a big movie in the action genre that Hollywood spent the next few years trying to emulate the formula, and this was Van Damme's attempt to get in on the act. It was scripted by Gene Quintano from Karen Elise Baldwin's story, and is, as you might have guessed, Die Hard in a hockey stadium - a very loud hockey stadium evidently as none of the crowd notice the sound of, say, a helicopter exploding overhead while the game is on. Yes, this is pretty silly stuff, but director Peter Hyams was an old hand at high speed mayhem and knows exactly the right buttons to press, and in Van Damme he finds a fitting star for his slick style.

The villains are particularly bloodthirsty in this one, coldly gunning down anyone who gets in their way, or have outlasted their usefulness to the plan, even a little old lady. That scheme takes a lot of setting up, but the preparation pays off, with scenes with our hero sacrificed for plotting, indeed, Van Damme hardly appears in the first half hour. Also, this is one of his films that raises the question, why does he labour under an Americanised name? The Belgian accent is in full effect, much as Arnold Schwarzenegger's Austrian intonation had been, but like him he gets a name like Darren McCord. There's a throwaway line to explain he's from Canada, so why not call him something French instead?

I ask you. Anyway, never mind that Foss now has the V.I.P.s hostage, including the Vice President (Raymond J. Barry), and will kill them one by one unless he gets the cash moved to his bank account, one third for each period of the game, and never mind that he will blow up everyone in the stadium thanks to bombs planted around the building, what's most important is that McCord looks good to his kids. Although his daughter still believes he has a crucial fireman's job, his son knows that the post of fire marshall is a lowly one, so the whole film is about McCord regaining the admiration of his offspring, and rest assured by the saving of the day he's pretty much their own personal Superman.

Every time it appears that the pace is slowing, Hyams cuts to shots of the game to keep the tension running high. Naturally, the baddies ensure that all the security is rendered useless and the police can only stand around outside impotently so that the only man who can help is McCord; he realises something is wrong when Emily is kidnapped after witnessing one of the murders. It's up to him to disable the bombs and kill off any henchman (or woman) who gets in his way, and this includes a ridiculous sequence in the kitchens that demonstrates just how perilous such an environment can be. Of course, this being engagingly over the top, McCord eventually ends up on the rink, disguised as a hockey player, and he even saves a goal in a mirth inducing bit. It's all very efficient, and amusing with it, so the only problems are the glutinous sentimentality and the fact that McCord and Foss never really meet until the very end, so there's a lack of personal rivalry felt between them. It's one of Van Damme's best films, nevertheless. Music by John Debney.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Peter Hyams  (1943 - )

American director, writer and cinematographer, mostly of standard genre movies: action, sci-fi, thriller, etc. After a career as a TV newsman (he was a Vietnam War reporter) he moved into films, writing and producing T.R. Baskin. A couple of TV movies later, on the big screen he made Busting, Capricorn One, Hanover Street, Outland, 2010, The Presidio, a remake of Narrow Margin, Stay Tuned, Timecop, Sudden Death, The Relic, End of Days, The Musketeer and A Sound of Thunder.

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