The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got. And check out my book, Chad in Accounting, over on Amazon.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Welcome to Sudden Death (2020)

Recently the guys at the DTV Digest Podcast had me on to discuss the films of Michael Jai White, and this was one of the ones we talked about. I think we all had high hopes, considering it's White in a DTV sequel to a Van Damme film. The problem before we even started it though was that basketball isn't a game that has sudden death as a part of it's overtime structure, so that wasn't a good sign. In addition to us, our friend Mitch at the Video Vacuum has done this as well, so you can go to his page to see what he thinks.

Welcome to Sudden Death has DTVC Hall of Famer Michael Jai White as a former special forces guy working security at a Great Value NBA arena. As luck would have it, a former CIA agent with a bone to pick with the team's billionaire owner takes over the arena, and in the process kills off all the security guards--all but one, and that one is, you guessed it. Throw in the fact that he brought his kids to the game, and his daughter gets taken hostage by the baddie; and a goofy janitor who may be more harm than help to White, and we have ourselves a Die Hard movie.


When I was on the DTV Digest, they had us rate the film from 1 to 10, and since I had this at a 2 out of 5, I gave it a 4 out of 10 (if I remember right). I was the toughest on it, but I also felt like there was a lot to be tough on. The biggest issue is the film didn't know what it wanted to be. It had the look of a Disney Channel movie, and with the kids, that gave it more of a Disney Channel feel. Then we had Gary Owen as the janitor comedic relief, who also couldn't tell if he was family friendly or wanted to work blue, and ended up becoming Dane Cook in Simon Sez. I think those two elements together still could have worked, except we had the darkness of all the security guards being brutally killed off. White does his best to make the most of his action scenes, but this was no Jesse V. Johnson actioner, so he could only do so much. If anything, this one did live up to the promise of a movie called "Welcome to Sudden Death" that's about a sport that doesn't have sudden death.

Going to a basketball analogy, I think Michael Jai White is like the Paul Pierce of DTV action. Black Dynamite is his championship, but there's a sense that he was on a lot of teams that didn't win, but it wasn't his fault that they didn't win. I don't know where you put this movie--not exactly the '06-'07 Celtics season, it wasn't that bad, but maybe one that didn't quite make the playoffs. I haven't seen the new Never Back Down that he directed, but I wonder if he's going to start going the Fred Williamson and Dolph route, where to get more control, he starts directing more of his films. It's too bad it's not the 80s, because I think he could've made some great Italian funded DTV gems. We can see the talent here for sure, and he has a few great fight scenes, including one with his wife; it's just another situation where the movie itself could have been better.


No Powers Booth this time around--or even another plural first name like Wings Hauser--, but Michael Eklund does well for what's asked of him here. The problem for him though is he's from Saskatoon, and you know who else is from Saskatoon: DTVC favorite, Kim Coates. That's the problem, and while it's not fair to Eklund, how do you get out from under the shadow of Coates, one of the best all-time DTV baddies? I think that's the problem with modern DTV films, they try to reach a bigger audience, so they cast someone like Eklund, who maybe has a greater general appeal, but that turns off the DTV hardos like me; but then the movie doesn't end up having the reach they wanted either, so no one ends up happy. Eklund is good and all, but for a movie like this, go big or go home, and get Coates as your head baddie to give us hardos something we can latch onto.

The doughy white comic relief is a device that doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but a lot of films go for it, thinking they'll be the one to make it work. If you have to have a be-jumpsuited janitor for comic relief--and again, I can't understand why you do--why does he have to be white, doughy, and goofy? It was just one of those things that hurt the overall tone of the film and added to the identity crisis that was ultimately its undoing. When I think of the great PM flicks, were there doughy white comic relief characters? No, yet somehow the bulk of those movies worked. Funny how that is.


Finally, it's interesting that the first film in this series featured the NHL, and this one features a Great Value NBA, because here in the States the two sports compete for viewers. For me, I've always been a fan of both sports, though neither quite matches my favorite sport, baseball. Anyway, one that would have made the basketball action a little less of a Great Value version is if they had used some actual NBA players. Maybe even just retired ones, and they wouldn't have had to be the best ones. Just give me some guys in Ice Cube's 3 on 3 league, or maybe a Terry Dehere. Just show me a little bit that you're trying, that's all I need.

And with that, let's wrap this up. Ultimately there were too many flaws here for me to really recommend it. The identity crisis was the biggest issue, but there were a lot of cost cutting measures that left us with a "you get what you pay for," and there wasn't enough of White's solid action to save it. What I can recommend is the DTV Digest podcast. For DTV junkies like us, it's just what the doctor ordered. Thanks again Mike, Richard, and Stephen for having me on, it was a blast!

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