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Sudden Death
Sudden Death theatrical poster
Written by Karen Elise Baldwin (story)
Gene Quintano (screenplay)
Directed by Peter Hyams
Produced by Howard Baldwin
Moshe Diamant
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme
Powers Boothe
Raymond J. Barry
Whittni Wright
Ross Malinger
Dorian Harewood
Music by John Debney
Cinematography by Peter Hyams
Editing by Steven Kemper
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release Date December 22, 1995
Rated R
Run time 110 min.
Budget $35,000,000 (est.)
Grossed $64,350,171

Sudden Death is the 1995 film. It was released in December 22, 1995. It was written by Karen Elise Baldwin & Gene Quintano and directed by Peter Hyams.

The film has disgraced ex-Pittsburgh firefighter Darren McCord (Jean-Claude Van Damme) now works as a fire marshal in Civic Arena. During Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, McCord discovers that terrorists, led by ex-government agent Joshua Foss (Powers Boothe), have taken U.S. Vice President Daniel Binder (Raymond J. Barry) hostage in the luxury box and rigged the arena with bombs and puts all effort to stop the nefarious plot.

Sudden Death had weak box-office results, but some fans considered it to be the best Van Damme film.


Darren McCord is a Canadian-born firefighter with the Pittsburgh Fire Bureau who suffered a personal crisis after he was unable to save a young girl from a house fire Now removed from active duty, Darren is the fire marshal for the Civic Arena.

While attending Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks with his daughter Emily and his son Tyler, he discovers a crime operation occurring in the arena.  A terrorist group led by former United States government employee Joshua Foss is holding U.S. Vice President Daniel Binder and several other VIPs hostage in a luxury suite.

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 must not just stop Foss, but somehow send the game into overtime and save his children simultaneously.

Darren is first pulled into the plot when Emily is kidnapped by Carla, the sole female member of the terrorists dressed as the mascot Iceburgh. She witnesses Carla murder numerous people, and is spared when she runs out of ammunition. Carla places Emily in the suite with the other hostages about to be executed. Darren, who had given pursuit, is left to search in vain. Realizing she has been "made", Carla returns to deal with Darren and a long fight breaks out. He proves to be more than a match for Carla.  Darren manages to kill Carla by kicking her into a large dishwasher, which pulls on her penguin's head strap and strangles her.

Darren finds a security guard, but this man is a hostile in disguise. He gets the upper hand this time, though, and forces information out of the thug before stabbing him in the neck. Darren heads up to the executive offices and finds a mobile phone, with which he calls the police.  They put him in touch with Secret Service Agent Matthew Hallmark, who advises that Darren stand by while the agents take charge. He angrily refuses, saying that he will handle this himself.

The Secret Service and the Pittsburgh Police team up to surround and cordoned off the arena and a standoff ensues. Meanwhile, Darren manages to find a few of the bombs and disable them, whilst Foss goes about killing several hostages. Eventually, Hallmark manages to sneak inside and meet with Darren. It quickly transpires that Hallmark is yet another puppet of Foss, influenced by money. Darren kills Hallmark and uses Hallmark's phone to contact Foss, who taunts the man with the news that he is holding his daughter captive.

As time quickly ticks down, Darren manages to disable more bombs, but is severely slowed by confrontations with Foss' men. At one point, the fire marshal must pretend to be the Pittsburgh goalie to escape the thugs and ends up successfully defending a shot. The third period runs down, and with the Penguins down by one goal, Luc Robitaille scores the equalizer in the last second, bringing the game to sudden death and prolonging the game, but only until the next goal is made. Darren decides that there's no time left to find the remaining bombs and climbs up to the roof of the arena. He advances upon the owner's box from above and forces his way in, rescuing Emily and the remaining hostages.

Foss manages to escape and blend in with the chaos that has ensued by one of Foss' henchmen falling from the roof through the score display earlier and blowing it up. Foss sets off one of the bombs, flooding part of the arena, and recaptures Emily when she recognizes him. They head up towards the top of the arena, where a helicopter is waiting to lift Foss away. Darren intervenes and saves his daughter. As Foss flees, a wounded Darren shoots the pilot through the floor. The pilot falls back taking the joystick with him, stalling out the chopper and screaming Foss dies as the chopper goes into the arena and explodes on impact with the ice.

As Darren is being led to a waiting ambulance, his son and daughter comment to the paramedics about how their father is a hero, while Tyler had before told Emily that their father was too scared to be a fireman again. A contented Darren is put inside the ambulance as the film ends.

Cast and characters[]

The McCord family[]



  • Raymond J. Barry as Vice President Daniel Binder
  • Kate McNeil as Kathi
  • Audra Lindley as Mrs. Ferrara
  • Brian Delate as Blair
  • Paul Mochnick as Andrew Ferrara

Hockey figures[]

  • Luc Robitaille as Himself
  • Mike Lange as Play-by-Play Announcer
  • Paul Steigerwald as Color Commentator


The movie received a mixed reaction. Sudden Death currently holds a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, some considered Sudden Death one of Van Damme's best films to date (alongside Hard Target and Timecop). Critic Roger Ebert 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." He gave the film two and a half out of four stars.

Sudden Death opened in the United States on the weekend of December 22, 1995, in 8th place, making only $4,782,445 at 1681 theaters, with a poor $2,845 per screen average, and meek $20,350,171 final tally. Internationally it fared a little better, with a worldwide gross of nearly $64 million. In other countries, it made close to 50 million in profit with video sales. The film's disappointing box office results may have been related to two elements outside its control: the fact that R-rated action films rarely become hits when released in December, and a film that bucked this trend to become a major hit opened just one week prior, Michael Mann's Heat.

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

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