Dog’s Movie House: “Welcome To Sudden Death” formulaic but enjoyable action flick featuring the underrated Michael Jai White!
Mr. White plays Jesse, a former special ops soldier suffering from a bit of PTSD after getting injured during a tour of the Middle East. He finds himself working as a security guard for a large arena in Atlanta in an attempt to support his loving family. In an attempt to spend more time with his two kids, he takes both of them to work where they can watch the opening pro basketball game of the season while Jesse makes the rounds.
But this isn’t just any opening night: The Mayor of Atlanta and the Governor of Georgia are showing up to christen the newly renovated arena, the brain child of billionaire activist Diana (Sabryn Rock). The trio, along with Diana’s annoying boyfriend, a famous rapper named Milli (Anthony Grant), make themselves at home in the owner’s suite in an attempt to enjoy the game.
Enter the terrorists, led by Jobe (Michael Eklund) who show up disguised as an IT team who quickly take over the arena, killing the security guards and tapping in to all the arena’s communications and internet in an attempt to force Diana to pay a billion dollars in virtual currency for a past indiscretion that is laid out in such vague terms that it really doesn’t matter. The gist is this, bad guys take hostages, kill all the guards (but one, of course), and rig the arena with explosives that will be detonated if their demands are not met.
If this sounds like a “Die Hard” rip-off, well, you’re not wrong. The fun thing about “Welcome To Sudden Death” is that it seems to know it’s a “Die Hard” rip-off. It just doesn’t care. Hell, Jesse’s reluctant partner, a janitor named Gus (Gary Owen as the sometimes funny sidekick), even riffs on the plot of the aforementioned action classic. In other words, even the actors know their in a rip-off of a better film. This “I-don’t-give-a-shit” attitude actually makes the film more enjoyable.
The acting ranges for decent to “it’s a Die Hard rip-off, what do you expect” level of bad, particularly from Eklund who’s somewhat bland recitation of the trying-oh-so-hard-to be clever dialogue from screenwriters Dallas Jackson and Gene Quintano makes him a somewhat forgettable villain. Better are Nakai Takawira and Lyric Justice as Jesse’s kids. The two young actors have a believable chemistry with White and Takawira in particular gets to shine as a smart-ass without being unbelievably smart.
But the show belongs to White. Dude is a physical monster and a rock-solid cinematic martial artist. But he also is a fairly talented actor from a dramatic standpoint and his stolid yet compassionate attitude puts you solidly in his corner from the very beginning. The fight scenes are fairly well choreographed, with a four-man brawl inside the stadium’s home locker room being one of the highlights.
The film is full of plot holes in terms of plausibility, but that’s okay because “Welcome To Sudden Death” isn’t interested in being a believable police procedural so much as being a kick-ass action flick. On the last count it succeeds primarily because of White’s commitment to the role. He clearly belongs in better films (may I suggest the excellent “Black Dynamite for your consideration?) but his dedication to his craft ironically makes this film a better watch because of said dedication. “Welcome To Sudden Death” is an agreeable time waster and you can watch it while imagining Michael Jai White as the next Black Panther! 3 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!