Welcome to Sudden Death
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Harmless action thrills in Welcome to Sudden Death

The 1995 action flick Sudden Death gets a sequel in Welcome to Sudden Death from director Dallas Jackson. Stepping in for Jean Claude Van Damme in the sequel is Michael Jai White, who happens to be one of my favorite action stars.

White portrays Jesse, a former soldier recovering from a shrapnel injury after a Middle East mission. Jesse is now a security guard at a Phoenix sports venue and still working tons of hours. Seen as the apple of his wife and daughter, Mara (Nakai Takawira) eyes, it’s clear he’s a blessed man. The super dad’s sentiment doesn’t hold up with his son Ryan (Lyric Justice), who isn’t too keen on his dad, viewing him as an absentee father.

Wanting to reconnect with his kid, Jesse decides to take them to work with him one day and treat them to a basketball game. However, fate has other plans in store when Jobe (Michael Eklund) and his team of armored cronies take over the arena while planting bombs with plans to kill everyone inside. Jobe has also taken over the owner’s suite, taking hostage billionaire Diana (Sabryn Rock), her boyfriend, rapper Milli (Anthony Grant), and a governor. Naturally, Jobe demands a fortune in “Digi-Coin,” or else he’ll blow up the arena Realizing trouble is afoot. Jesse is forced to team up with janitor Gus (Gary Owen) to take down the bad buys and save everyone inside. 

The original Sudden Death hit movie screens during the Christmas holiday season of 1995. I still remember reading the original film’s novelization and anxiously looking forward to its releases as I was a Van Damme fan. Initially seen as a Die Hard rip off, Sudden Death pretty much flopped stateside but was a hit overseas. Twenty-five years later, the sequel arrives with director and screenwriter Dallas Jackson following the template established in the first film.

I commend Jackson for opening up the film with a nice action sequence that showcases Michael Jai White’s athleticism and martial arts skills. I also liked the introduction of Jesse’s family and showing an African American nuclear family. The director doesn’t waste too much time with pointless dialogue and keeps Welcome to Sudden Death pace moving along quickly.

Michael Jai White is always enjoyable on the screen, whether he’s kicking butt or interacting with his daughter. Watching the film, it’s clear that the actor is having a good time knocking off the bad guys one by one. The child actors who portray Jesse kids, Mara (Nakai Takawira) and Ryan (Lyric Justice), were also enjoyable, never coming off as bratty. Comedian Gary Owen shows up to provide some comic relief, eschewing natural chemistry with White. I would really love to see these two in another project.

The rest of the cast is pretty much on autopilot, falling into the standard character templates that action movies require. One of the biggest letdowns for me was Jobe’s character as it’s nothing we haven’t seen actor Michael Eukland do in his previous work. Much more interesting are the villain’s Omega and Gamma, portrayed by Marrese Crump & Gillian White, respectively. Both have good fight scenes with Michael Jai White and deliver their lines more menacing than Eukland. I would’ve loved to have seen Omega and Gamma as the primary antagonists. 

Clocking in at just eighty minutes, Welcome to Sudden Death is a harmless time-waster. Director Dallas Jackson has a keen eye for fight sequences and providing fun, mindless popcorn entertainment. 

 

Final Grade B-

Welcome to Sudden Death is available to view on Netflix as well for rent at the Redbox.

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