Welcome to Sudden Death (2020)

Michael Jai White must stop a terrorist unit in this follow-up to the 1995 Jean-Claude Van Damme action thriller.

Former soldier Jesse Freeman is still suffering from the effects of his last mission. However, he has found a job as a security job for the Odyssey Center, where the season debut of the Phoenix Falcons is set to happen. On this day, Jesse wants to spend some time with his family, so he brings his daughter Mara and son Ryan. Meanwhile, a group hired to be experts in wi-fi to fix a signal are revealed to be a terrorist organization led by Jobe “Alpha” Davis and they have infiltrated the arena.

Jobe has led the team because he has a grudge with new owner Diana Smith, who ratted Jobe, a former soldier out, when he mistook a family for a terrorist family. Seeking retribution, he plants a bomb in the arena. When Jesse discovers the plot after Mara goes missing, he finds some unexpected help in Gus, who works as a janitor in the arena. Together, these two are set to take on the terrorists, rescue Mara, and stop the bombs from going off.

1995’s Sudden Death featured Jean-Claude Van Damme protecting a hockey arena from a band of terrorists. Who would have ever imagined a sequel? Well, it’s happened thanks to Universal 1440’s knack for making unnecessary sequels to some of their top films. On the bright side, at least they are not remakes that have plagued Hollywood as of late. While we have had sequels like Kindergarten Cop 2, Grand-Daddy Day Care, The Car: Road to Revenge, and Scorpion King: Book of Souls to name a few, a Sudden Death sequel was not really expected. However, we got it and for only a runtime of 80 minutes, it’s not that bad.

Where Jean-Claude Van Damme was a one-man army in the original, Michael Jai White’s Jesse does find himself getting some help as the film is now a semi-buddy action comedy with comedian Gary Owen playing janitor Gus, who helps Jesse around the arena in his time of need. Owen brings his style of comedics to the role quite well when paired with White. Jesse only becomes a one-man army when he has to fight and fight he does. Meanwhile, Michael Eklund emphasizes some cliches (and even mentions the cliches) as terrorist leader Jobe, aka Alpha, who at times must contend with the annoying hip-hop rapper boyfriend of the owner with whom he has a beef against.

The terrorists themselves are named after letters of the Greek alphabet and they are played by a wide variety of stunt performers and actors. While the running time results in a series of short fights, they are pretty good for what they are. Two highlight scenes that must be noted are that of White taking on his own wife, Gillian White, who plays member Gamma; and a three-on-one, in which White takes on stunt performers Marrese Crump, Sean Skene, and B.J. Verot. Kudos to Larnell Stovall for his fight choreography on the film as they are all short and sweet fights.

Welcome to Sudden Death may sound like an unnecessary and ultimately, thematic sequel, but come on, we are talking about Michael Jai White here and he gets to kick some terrorist butt here. Gary Owen provides some fun comic relief and even when Michael Eklund’s character knows he’s doing cliches, you know this is a film that is just a fun action ride.

WFG RATING: B

A Universal 1440 Production. Director: Dallas Jackson. Producer: Griff Furst. Writers: Dallas Jackson and Gene Quintano; based on the screenplay “Sudden Death” by Gene Quintano. Cinematography: Mark Irwin. Editing: Irit Raz and Eric Potter.

Cast: Michael Jai White, Michael Eklund, Gary Owen, Sabryn Rock, Nakai Takiwara, Lyric Justice, Marrese Crump, Sean Skene, BJ Verot, Gillian White, Stephanie Sy, Anthony Grant, Anthony J. Mifsud, Sagine Semajuste, Kristen Harris.

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