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Bad Movie Tuesday: Welcome to Sudden Death (2020), the remake/sequel to Van Damme’s Sudden Death (1995).

January 5, 2021

MY CALL:A soul-crushing defeat for fans of Michael Jai White and Van Damme. WHAT TO WATCH INSTEAD OF Welcome to Sudden Death: For truly awesome martial arts action, aim for Ong-Bak (2003), The Protector (2005), Undisputed 2 (2006), Blood and Bone (2009), The Raid: Redemption (2011), The Raid 2 (2014), Kill Zone 2 (2015) and The Night Comes for Us (2018); followed by Kill Zone (2005), Chocolate (2009), Skin Trade (2014), Triple Threat (2019), Boyka: Undisputed IV (2016) and Paradox (2017; aka Sha Po Lang 3).

Okay, action movie fans. This is more of a warning than true-to-form review. I am a big fan of Michael Jai White (MJW; Skin Trade, Blood and Bone, Triple Threat, Undisputed 2, Accident Man). And with that in mind, this movie was a soul-crushing experience…

If you’ve seen Undisputed 2 (2006) or Blood and Bone (2009), then you have a good sense of what Michael Jai White can do. Anyone who wants to say he’s getting old (born in 1967)—then check out Triple Threat (2019) or Skin Trade (2014). The man’s still got it! And if anyone has lost a step, it’s the filmmakers, not the on-screen talent. And that seems to be the problem with Welcome to Sudden Death big time.

Early combat sequences are briefly cut and clean, but the overall execution is woefully limited by MJW’s “bad guy” stunt men. After all, a martial arts movie fight is only as good as its worst fighter/stuntman and so, sadly, MJW’s skills in stunt choreography are completely lost in the inability of his costars and crew. And that limitation subsequently results in choppier editing and shorter shots (i.e., only 1-2 strikes per cut). So fans of more technically sound martial arts movies should turn away and save the heartache.

The general filmmaking is “proficient”… but poor, cinematically speaking. Every scene is boring and barely held together, often feeling like an episode of a sitcom when the characters are somewhere big, crowded and away from their regular set (like if a sitcom family went to a baseball game). The writing is likewise incredibly basic to such degree that you’d feel like “nobody speaks like this.” Everything in this movie is a tired cliché executed poorly. As far as action movies go, this is like a SyFy Channel movie-of-the-week.

The only saving grace is that I get to see MJW star in something again. But his abilities have been squandered and now I fear his chances of landing lead action roles will have only worsened.

Most of the fights are lame timewasters (by MJW standards), but the locker room fight was the one that was decent. It’s fun to watch. But again, if you’re a MJW fan, it’s incredibly weak compared to Undisputed 2 (2006) and Blood and Bone (2009) when it comes to combat photography, visible technique technical combinations, complexity and overall execution. Moreover, there are no eye-grabbing stunts.

On a technical level, the fights are better than Sudden Death (1995). However, in Sudden Death (1995) the action photography, scoring, editing and stunts all made for a more impactful and fun fight scene experience. You just can’t beat fighting a woman in a penguin mascot suit in the kitchen. Sure, MJW fights a tough female fighter. But like MJW, her skills are squandered by the poor action filmmakers behind and around the camera.

Not since Scott Adkins in Hard Target 2 (2016) has a Van Damme-less Van Damme sequel been so crassly yet delightfully cashed-in upon. And advertised and titled as a “sequel/remake” to Van Damme’s Sudden Death (1995), this takes place during a basketball game. Is there sudden death in basketball? Is there any mention of Van Damme’s heroic exploits in 1995? What’s the connection? This movie is not good. It’s bad. Very bad. Sorry, but first-time action director Dallas Jackson (Thriller) does a lame job. Clocking in at a brisk 80 minutes… it couldn’t have felt longer.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 5, 2021 7:49 am

    Had no idea there was a sequel, but I’m here for it!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      January 7, 2021 9:26 pm

      You might regret that… lol

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