Sudden Death (1995 film)

Sudden Death

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter Hyams
Produced by Howard Baldwin
Moshe Diamant
Written by Gene Quintano
Story by Karen Elise Baldwin
Music by John Debney
Cinematography Peter Hyams
Edited by Steven Kemper
Shattered Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • December 22, 1995 (1995-12-22)
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Budget $35 million
Box office $64,350,171

Sudden Death is a 1995 American action film, directed by Peter Hyams, and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Powers Boothe. The film was released in the United States on December 22, 1995. Set in a hockey stadium, the film was written by Gene Quintano, based on a story by Karen Elise Baldwin, the wife of Pittsburgh Penguins owner Howard Baldwin, who was a co-producer.

Sudden Death features a collaboration between Powers Boothe and Raymond J. Barry, reuniting for the first time since 1992's Rapid Fire. This is the second film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and directed by Peter Hyams, who both worked together on Timecop, the previous year.

The film was a box office disappointment in the United States, grossing less than $20.4 million at the box office on a $35 million budget. However, the film was a huge success internationally, particularly in Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom, making $64 million worldwide.[1] In other countries, it made close to $50 million in profit with video sales. It received mixed to negative 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.


Darren McCord (Jean-Claude Van Damme) 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 (Whittni Wright) and his son Tyler (Ross Malinger), he discovers a crime operation occurring in the arena. Soon a gang of bloodthirsty terrorists led by former US government employee and fired CIA operative Joshua Foss (Powers Boothe) is holding U.S. Vice President Daniel Binder (Raymond J. Barry) 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 rescues both his son and daughter simultaneously.

Darren is pulled into the plot when Emily is kidnapped by Carla, the sole female member of the terrorists dressed as the mascot Iceburgh. Carla places Emily in the suite with the other hostages about to be executed. Darren heads up to the executive offices and finds a mobile phone, with which he gets in touch with Secret Service Agent Matthew Hallmark (Dorian Harewood), who 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 Police team up to surround the arena and a standoff ensues. Meanwhile, Darren manages to find a few of the bombs and disarm them, whilst Foss goes about killing several hostages after the 2nd period ends. Agent Hallmark finally makes his way inside and meets with Darren, who explains where the rest of the bombs are most likely located. It is then revealed that Hallmark is in league with Foss, and tries to kidnap Tyler, but fails. Hallmark then reveals his true self to Darren, and Darren burns him alive. Darren then uses Hallmark's phone to contact Foss, who taunts him 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's 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 scored. 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.

Meanwhile, Foss manages to escape and blend in with the chaos that has ensued by one of Foss's henchmen falling from the roof through the score display 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. Foss flees, and a wounded Darren shoots the pilot through the floor and a screaming Foss is killed as the chopper falls into the arena and explodes on impact with the ice.

Darren is led to a waiting ambulance while and his son and daughter comment to the paramedics about how their father is a hero. A contented Darren is put inside the ambulance as the film ends.


Hockey figures


Howard Baldwin, chairman of the Pittsburgh Penguins, was one of the film's backers. He had a two-year deal with Universal.[5] 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 Hockey League. 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.[6]

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 Veterans Hospital in Aspinwall, PA.[7]

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.[8]


The movie received a mixed reaction.[9][10][11][12] Sudden Death currently holds a 52 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, some consider 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."[13]

Box office

Sudden Death opened in the United States on the weekend of December 22, 1995, in eighth place, making $4,782,445 at 1681 theatres, with a poor $2,845 per screen average, and a $20,350,171 final tally.[14] Internationally it fared better, with a worldwide gross of nearly $64 million.[15] In other countries, it made close to 50 million in profit with video sales.


Sudden Death
Author Stephen Mertz
Country United States
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher Boulevard Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 218 pp
ISBN 1-57297-032-4
OCLC 33266093

The novelization of the film was written by American writer Stephen Mertz.[16] The audio book is read by Powers Boothe.


  1. Sudden Death at
  2. 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.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  3. Pittsburgh Sudden Death (1995)
  4. Pittsburgh Sudden Death (1995)
  5. Penguins owner makes movie deal with universal. (1995, Jul 08). The Washington Post (1974-Current File) Retrieved from
  6. Fachet, R. (1995, Jan 19). They get to the show, but only on film. The Washington Post (1974-Current File) Retrieved from
  7. DVD production notes.
  8. DVD production notes.
  9. Thomas, Kevin (1995-12-22). "MOVIE REVIEW; Van Damme in Top Form in 'Sudden Death'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  10. "Sudden Death". Entertainment Weekly. 1995-12-22. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  11. "Sudden Death". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  12. Elley, Derek (1995-12-10). "Sudden Death". Variety. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  14. 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.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  15. Sudden Death at
  16. "Stephen Mertz, Contemporary Authors Online, Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2008".

External links

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