Sudden Death (1995 film)

Sudden Death is a 1995 American sports action-thriller film directed by Peter Hyams and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Powers Boothe, and Dorian Harewood. The film was released in the United States on December 22, 1995. Set at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, the film was written by Gene Quintano, based on a story by Karen Elise Baldwin, the wife of then-Pittsburgh Penguins owner Howard Baldwin, who was a co-producer. It was the second collaboration between Van Damme and Hyams, after Timecop (1994).

Sudden Death
Sudden Death (1995 film poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Hyams
Screenplay byGene Quintano
Story byKaren Elise Baldwin
Produced byHoward Baldwin
Moshe Diamant
CinematographyPeter Hyams
Edited bySteven Kemper
Music byJohn Debney
Shattered Productions
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 22, 1995 (1995-12-22)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$35 million[citation needed]
Box office$64.4 million[1]

The film grossed $64 million at the box office on a $35 million budget and received mixed reviews at the time of its release,[2] although retrospective reviews have been more positive and it is seen by many as one of Van Damme's best.[3][4]


Darren McCord is a French Canadian-born firefighter for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire now serving as the fire marshal for the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, after being unable to save a young girl from a house fire two years prior. During the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks (a fictional rematch of the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals), a group of terrorists take the Vice President of the United States and several other VIPs hostage in a luxury suite. Former CIA operative Joshua Foss has the arena wired with explosives, and plans to blow it up at the end of the game, while having hundreds of millions of dollars wired into several off shore accounts.

Darren takes his son Tyler and daughter Emily to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals as a birthday gift for Tyler. A spat between brother and sister causes Emily to run off before getting kidnapped by Carla, the sole female member of the terrorists (who is disguised as the local mascot Iceburgh after killing the original performer). Carla places Emily in the suite with the other hostages about to be executed. Not wanting his son to go missing, Darren orders Tyler to stay in his seat while he goes searching for Emily. Carla is about to kill Darren, but he evades her attacks in a fight and kills her. Afterward, Darren asks for a security guard's help, but the guard is another terrorist in disguise and reveals their criminal operation before being killed by Darren. Now aware of the situation, Darren finds a mobile phone in the executive offices and uses it to contact Secret Service Agent Matthew Hallmark; Hallmark advises Darren to stand by while the agents take charge. He angrily refuses, saying that he will handle this himself.

The Secret Service and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police team up to surround the arena and a standoff ensues. Meanwhile, Darren manages to find and disarm a few of the bombs (as well as killing and evading a few of Foss' men), whilst Foss himself kills several hostages after the end of the first and second periods. Hallmark finally makes his way inside and meets Darren, who explains where the rest of the bombs are most likely located. Hallmark is revealed to be in league with Foss, and tries to kidnap Tyler, but fails. Hallmark then reveals his true self to Darren, who sets him on fire and ultimately kills him. Darren then uses Hallmark's phone to contact Foss, who taunts that he is holding his daughter captive.

As time ticks down, Darren disables more bombs, but is severely slowed by confrontations with Foss' men. At one point, Darren, dressed as the Pittsburgh goalie to escape the thugs, enters the game and successfully defends a shot on goal. As the third period runs down, Luc Robitaille scores the game-tying goal for Pittsburgh in the last second, prompting sudden death overtime and prolonging the game. Deciding that there's no time left to find the remaining bombs, Darren climbs to the roof of the arena. He fights off two of Foss' henchmen; one of them falls onto the score display, blowing it up. As the arena erupts into chaos, Darren advances upon the owner's box from above and forces his way in, rescuing Emily, the Vice President and the remaining hostages. Darren and Emily reunite with Tyler and set out to leave the arena.

Foss manages to escape and blend in with the panicking crowd. He sets off one of the bombs, flooding part of the arena, and recaptures Emily when she recognizes him. They head towards the top of the arena, where a helicopter is waiting to lift Foss away. Darren intervenes and saves his daughter before Foss could shoot her. As Foss attempts to flee, Darren shoots the pilot, causing the chopper to stall and fall into the arena, sending a screaming Foss to his death as the chopper explodes on impact with the ice.

Darren is led to an awaiting Pittsburgh Bureau of EMS medic unit while his children tell the paramedics of his heroism. As a contented Darren is loaded into the ambulance, it is presumed that he was restored back to his position.


  • Jean-Claude Van Damme as Darren Francis Thomas McCord, a former Pittsburgh firefighter who now works as a fire marshal at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena
  • Powers Boothe as Joshua Foss, a Secret Service agent and mastermind of the terrorists
  • Raymond J. Barry as U.S. Vice President Daniel Binder
  • Whittni Wright as Emily McCord, Darren's daughter
  • Ross Malinger as Tyler McCord, Darren's son
  • Dorian Harewood as Matthew Hallmark, a Secret Service agent in charge of the Vice-President's protection detail; later revealed to be Foss's second-in-command
  • Kate McNeil as Kathi McCord, Darren's ex-wife
  • Jennifer D. Bowser as Joan Cometti, the woman who normally plays Icey
  • Michael Gaston as Hickey, Foss's computer hacker
  • Paul Mochnick as Andrew Ferrara, chef for the Pittsburgh Civic Arena
  • Audra Lindley as Angeline Ferrara, Andrew's wife
  • Brian Delate as Thomas Blair, Secret Service agent taken hostage
  • Faith Minton as Carla, Foss's only henchwoman disguised as the Pittsburgh Penguins mascot
  • Jack Erdie as Scratch, one of Foss' henchmen
  • Bernard Canepari as Jefferson, the Penguins' equipment manager
  • Jophery Brown as Wootton, one of Foss' henchmen
  • Manny Perry as Brody, one of Foss' henchmen
  • Steve Aranson as Dooley, in charge of the arena's big board
  • Michael R. Aubele as Ace
  • Bill Dalzell as George Spota, head of security for the Pittsburgh Civic Arena
  • Ed Evanko as Baldwin, one of the team owners taken hostage by the villains
  • Jeff Habberstad as Lewis, one of Foss' henchmen
  • John Hateley as Briggs, one of Foss' henchmen
  • Kane Hodder as Murphy
  • Jeff Howell as Usborn
  • Fred Mancuso as Billy Pratt, Foss's henchmen
  • Brad Moniz as Toowey, one of Foss's henchmen
  • Brian Smrz as Demsky
  • Milton E. Thompson as Sergeant Kurtz, a Chicago PD dispatch officer
  • Fred Waugh as Bluto, one of Foss's henchmen
  • Dean E. Wells as Kloner, one of Foss' henchmen
  • Raymond Laine as Mullard
  • Thomas Saccio as Foss's Helicopter Pilot
  • Brian Hutchison as Young Secret Service Agent

Hockey figuresEdit


Development and writingEdit

Sudden Death was based on a spec script by Gene Quintano called Arena.[6]

Howard Baldwin, chairman of the Pittsburgh Penguins, was one of the film's backers. He had a two-year deal with Universal.[7] Baldwin wanted to use footage from the October 1 game opener between Pittsburgh and Chicago, but the game was delayed due to a lockout. He arranged an exhibition game, but the players from Pittsburgh and Chicago apparently did not display the correct intensity. So they arranged another game involving players from the Johnstown Chiefs and Wheeling Thunderbirds of the East Coast Hockey League (now ECHL). Crowd shots were done over one night using between 2,000 and 3,000 extras, plus cardboard cut outs to make the stadium seem like 17,000.[8]


Sudden Death was filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where it is set, and Middletown, New York, in 98 days between August 29 and December 7, 1994. Parts were filmed at the then-unopened and now closed Veterans Hospital in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania.[9]

The final helicopter crash was filmed with a 400 ft crane that could pick up and lower the helicopter into the arena. Nine cameras recorded the event, which was filmed several times, and hundreds of emergency vehicles were on standby in case of an accident.[9]


Box officeEdit

Sudden Death opened in the United States on the weekend of December 22, 1995, in eighth place, making $4,782,445 at 1681 theaters, with a poor $2,845 per screen average, and a $20,350,171 final tally.[2] Internationally it fared better, with a worldwide gross of nearly $64 million.[1] In other countries, it made close to 50 million in profit with video sales.[citation needed]

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 50% based on 36 reviews, with an average rating of 5.11/10. The website's consensus states "Sudden Death may not be a classic, but exciting set pieces and strong work from Jean-Claude Van Damme help this action thriller pay off part of its Die Hard debt."[10] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[11]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and half stars out of four and stated that, "Sudden Death isn't about common sense. It's about the manipulation of action and special-effects sequences to create a thriller effect, and at that it's pretty good."[12] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called it "A treat for Jean-Claude Van Damme fans, a superior action thriller loaded with jaw-dropping stunts and special effects, and strong in production values."[13] TVGuide gave it 2 out of 4 calling it "Good clean fun, with just the right ratio of explosions to dialogue."[14] Bruce Fretts of Entertainment Weekly said the film wants to be a "comical Die Hard knockoff" but criticizes the director for the "inept editing and a plodding pace". He gave it a D- grade.[15]

In 2013 Den of Geek included it at 5 in a list of the Top 10 Van Damme movies.[3][4][16]


Sudden Death
AuthorStephen Mertz
CountryUnited States
PublisherBoulevard Books
Publication date
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Pages218 pp

The novelization of the film was written by American writer Stephen Mertz.[17] The audio book is read by Powers Boothe.


On August 20, 2019, it was reported that a remake titled Welcome to Sudden Death was in production from both Universal 1440 and Netflix, originally set for a June 2020 release date. The film stars Michael Jai White and Gary Owen in a more comedic take on the material.[18] It was released on September 29, 2020 to mostly negative reviews.[19][20]


  1. ^ a b "Sudden Death (1995)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b Dutka, Elaine (1995-12-25). "It's a Big Sigh of Relief for 'Exhale'; Box office: Whitney Houston film opens strongly and could take in $11 million or more for the four-day weekend. 'Nixon' and 'Cutthroat Island' perform poorly". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  3. ^ a b "Top 10 greatest Jean-Claude Van Damme movies". Den of Geek. 5 April 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Rank Jean-Claude Van Damme's 10 Best Movies". Rotten Tomatoes.
  5. ^ a b "Sudden Death (1995)". Archived from the original on 2016-03-15. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  6. ^ Moerk, Christian (9 July 1993). "Quintano builds from 'Scratch'". Variety.
  7. ^ "Penguins owner makes movie deal with universal". The Washington Post. Jul 8, 1995. ProQuest 904902592.
  8. ^ Fachet, R. (Jan 19, 1995). "They get to the show, but only on film". The Washington Post. ProQuest 903370358.
  9. ^ a b DVD production notes.
  10. ^ "Sudden Death (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  11. ^ "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 22, 1995). "Sudden Death Movie Review & Film Summary (1995)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  13. ^ Thomas, Kevin (1995-12-22). "MOVIE REVIEW; Van Damme in Top Form in 'Sudden Death'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020-01-01.
  14. ^ "Sudden Death".
  15. ^ Bruce Fretts (1995-12-22). "Sudden Death". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  16. ^ "Top 10 Jean Claude Van Damme Movies (fans need to see!)". 7 July 2018.
  17. ^ "Stephen Mertz, Contemporary Authors Online, Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2008". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ Boucher, Geoff (20 August 2019). "'Sudden Death' Remake: Dallas Jackson & Netflix Seek "New Spin" On JCVD film". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  19. ^ "The Mecca Short Film Presentation – Schedule and Film Info". Blackfilm – Black Movies, Television, and Theatre News. 2020-05-26. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  20. ^ "What is Welcome to Sudden Death? Is it a sequel to the Jean-Claude van Damme movie?".

External linksEdit