I’m one of those rare breed of film viewers who actually want some movies to be remade with a modern aesthetic. But, like most people, I don’t see the point in remaking a super successful film since those movies should be and are considered timeless in their own right. What I would like to see, however, are more remakes of really bad movies. Usually, when studios try to update a hit movie, they do so with today’s mindset but fail to capture the heart and soul of the movie, leading to a very underwhelming experience and makes you question why they even bothered in the first place. With bad movies, however, studios have more leeway to play around with the story, take the things that worked and change the things that didn’t. Make sense, doesn’t it?
Now, I’m not sure if I would classify Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 1995 action film Sudden Death as either a good or bad film. All I know is Universal and Netflix joined forces to remake it starring Michael Jai White. Is it worth all the trouble? Well, the only way is to watch Welcome to Sudden Death and judge it for myself!
Welcome to Sudden Death borrows the basic premise from the original Sudden Death. A down on his luck security person takes his son and daughter to see a sporting event. Unfortunately, bad guys take over the owner’s box where a special VIP is watching the game. The “terrorists” have rigged the stadium to blow up and it’s now up to this one, lone person to stop the bad guys using his wit and skills.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Since Welcome to Sudden Death follows the same plot of the original Sudden Death, which actually mimics the entire “Die Hard on a [insert location here]” that dominated the action movie landscape of the early ’90s, you were bound to feel some deja vu when watching this. But that doesn’t matter. Copying a movie’s general idea is okay as long as you manage to put your own spin on it or, at the very least, be entertaining. So where does Welcome to Sudden Death fall in? Well, it all depends on your expectations…
First, let’s talk about the action scenes. I will say that all of the fight scenes are very well done! All of them are well staged and, because they rely on steady shots and no shaky cam, it’s very easy to follow the action. They all look and feel like an old school martial arts fights. No forced slowdown to make things look epic. No special effects shots or angles that makes them look like they’re flying all over the place. Some of the hits and the falls look painful. It’s just good and clean fight choreography at its best. A lot of credit should go to the stunt personnel of Welcome to Sudden Death but most especially to the film’s star, Michael Jai White. I like Michael Jai White and it’s amazing he can still do some of the stuff he pulls off throughout the film. It looked like he and the rest of the fight staff put a lot of work into making the hits look like they hit real hard.
Unfortunately, as good as the action is in Welcome to Sudden Death, everything else is pretty bad. But, sometimes, they’re bad in a good way. Michael Jai White is a capable actor and he’s the only one who really gives a likable performance. The rest of the cast, though… woof! Everyone is a overacting caricature of a trope. Clueless janitor partner who’s comedy relief? He’s there. Sassy child who’s not afraid of bad guys? Yep. Super defiant authority figure? You got it. Psycho who loves handling explosives? She’s there. Cowardly hostage who talks too much? Check. In fact, no one really acts like a human being and it gave me a feeling of dissonance with the overall tone. The start of the film makes you think they want you to take the film seriously but the acting tells you otherwise.
The story, while mimicking the Die Hard trope, could have been good but some of the decisions they made are B-movie dumb. I already talked about how cartoony the acting is But I also have to talk about some of the needless plot points, like the son only going to the game because his favorite player is going to be there but it’s never really used as a significant plot point. The entire bad guy’s reason for taking over the owner’s box comes off as very weird as well. In fact, the reason why he became a bad guy was, without giving any spoilers, is laughable.
Of course, the most ridiculous thing about Welcome to Sudden Death is the title as it doesn’t make sense in the context of the film. In the original Sudden Death, there’s a reason why it’s titled like that. It’s because the sporting event in that film was hockey and, when the score is tied when the time runs out, the game goes into “sudden death,” wherein the next team to score wins. In Welcome to Sudden Death, the sport they’re playing is… basketball. If they were copying the original film, they should’ve called it something like “Overtime,” which is what happens in basketball. I know it’s not an “action movie” title but it makes more sense.
But, as bad as the story and the acting is, I will say I enjoyed Welcome to Sudden Death. It’s definitely no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. I would even say it’s a bad movie. However, it’s one of those “so bad that it’s good” kind of films. It’s terrible and terribly dumb in a lot of spots but I still like it because of how terrible and terribly dumb it is. I guess a good chuck of the reason why is Michael Jai White is very charismatic as the lead and the fight scenes are enjoyable in an old school sort of way.
If you’re not looking a masterpiece and just looking for a good, dumb action movie filled with good fights you can shut your brain off for around an hour and a half with, Welcome to Sudden Death is worth a watch.
Have you seen Welcome to Sudden Death? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!