Remakes are a dime a dozen, yet most connect the trend to well-regarded classics. In the case of the latest low-rent actioner Welcome to Sudden Death, writer/director Dallas Jackson looks to revive a disposable entry in Jean-Claude Van Damme’s action star catalog. While its modernized approach registers some cheeky fun, this iteration never rises above its formulaic genre approach.
Welcome to Sudden Death follows Jesse Freeman (Michael Jai White) an army vet and family man working diligently as a local security guard. When he takes his kids to a professional basketball game, the stadium gets hijacked by tech-savvy robbers. After all the other guards are disposed of, it’s up to Jesse to stop the scheme and assure his children’s safety.
Similar to its forefather, Welcome to Sudden Death operates in a shamelessly self-aware fashion. Dallas Jackson crafts his film in the image of campy action throwbacks, reveling in the inherently cartoonish nature of his set-up and characters. Much of the fun derives from star Michael Jai White’s straight-faced delivery, playing off the theatrical beats with assured confidence and a sly sense of humor. It’s also a blast to see White let loose in some soundly-constructed set pieces, with Jackson exhibiting enough steadiness to scratch that low-rent, popcorn movie itch.
The film’s openly goofy approach is right up my avenue, yet there are plenty of noticeable blemishes present throughout the narrative. Jackson’s sitcom-esque presentation flatly presents frames without much thought or creativity behind the camera (every action scene is drowned out with an off-putting uptempo score). The autopilot presentation is hindered even more by apparent budgetary limitations, eliciting a cheap aroma rather than the type of scrappy earnestness that marks most B-movie successes. Mixing the child-like simplicity with a wildly unnecessary R-rating (some woeful uses of CGI-blood bring little to the table), Welcome to Sudden Death never presents itself with a consistent voice.
Aside from White’s personable delivery, no one else seems to be in tune with the genre’s unique frequency. Half-hearted attempts towards a humorous streak sink under the weight of cloying cliches (his janitor buddy and a famous rapper make for tiresome one-note sidekicks). The script also utilizes a bizarre melodramatic set-up, embracing dated contrivances that lack enough ingenuity or charm to be palatable. There’s nothing grating about Welcome to Sudden Death, yet its unremarkable 80-minute length passes by without drawing a real impression.
While often agreeable, Welcome to Sudden Death rarely distinguishes itself from its bargain bin peers.
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