Last week, as part of our ongoing Jean-Claude van Jeanuary (just jeanuary for short) celebration on You Love To See It, we watched and analyzed Sudden Death, a 1995 action film heavily inspired by Die Hard. In it, a traumatized fire marshal (Van Damme) is tasked with stopping a horrible terrorist bomb plot by a cartoonish villain (Powers Boothe) during a packed Stanley cup finale in Pittsburgh. It takes so much of its plot and cues from the earlier film, but it has so many flourishes: hockey action, goofy hockey humor, and fight scenes involving every part of an arena (including a wild array of weaponized kitchen tools), that it is very much its own thing.
You might say it takes the rock-solid template of an established classic (Die Hard) and improves on it with personality and charm and character for days. You might say, as I did in the episode, that Sudden Death is like Banjo-Kazooie to Die Hard‘s Super Mario 64. This is an apt comparison.
@fanbyte Sudden Death (2005) is WILD #film #filmclips #podcast #jcvd #jeanclaudevandamme ♬ original sound – fanbyte
Once upon a time, I made a video at Polygon where I argued for all the ways Banjo-Kazooie is a better game: mainly on the strength of its more intricate world design and ever-evolving moveset (and influx of adventure game DNA, particularly as the game goes on). It should never have been a controversial statement: BK came out two years later. It should be a better game, with improvements, changes, and elements that differentiate it from the classic work it so clearly is emulating.
The same is true here! This movie stuffs in so much personality, excitement, and just plain wild fun (for example: at one point, Van Damme’s character takes to the ice and makes an unbelievable save in the net! That’s after a locker room fight followed up with a weight room fight! Now that’s how you use the space around you, filmmakers!) that this emerges the better “utterly unrealistic action movie about one supposedly normal dude during a siege.” While Van Damme’s Darren McCord has perhaps fewer fun one-liners than Willis’ John Mclane, I’d argue that Van Damme is the better action hero here because 1. His fight scenes are far more exciting, dynamic and wild, and 2. He’s not playing a fucking cop.
Now, neither movie is perfect. My wonderful co-host Fernanda and I go in deep about our difficulties with narratives that skew close to the dangerous “lone wolf/good guy with a gun” stories that western culture sure loves to pump out. We also weigh all of this in the context of what we want from a good action movie, and more specifically, a good Van Damme vehicle, which is our purview this month.
You can listen to the whole episode above, and subscribe, rate, and review the show if you enjoy it! You can also follow this link to join our You Love To See It channel on the Fanbyte discord and join Fernanda, producer Paul Tamayo, and myself in a discussion about the various cinematic masterpieces we’re watching that week. Join us!