Directed by Dallas Jackson

Starring Michael Jai White,  Michael Eklund, Gillian White, Maresse Crump, Sabryn Rock, Gary Owen, Anthony Grant, Nakai Takawira, Lyric Justice, Sagine Sémajuste

Plot: Former Special forces veteran Jesse Freeman (Michael Jai White) tries to balance his return to civilian life with his family life and responsibilities as a security guard at the new, state-of-the-art stadium built by local philanthropist Diana Smart (Sabryn Rock). He decides to take his two children, Mara (Nakai Takawira) and Ryan ( Lyric Justice), to the grand opening of the new stadium featuring the Phoenix Falcons basketball game. This is an important day, as the Mayor and the Governor will be in attendance. Little do they know that former CIA operative Jobe (Michael Eklund) and his team of special ops soldiers have a plan to take over the stadium, which they have wired with explosives. After dispatching and replacing all the stadium’s security guards — except Jesse — with his henchmen, Jobe holds Smart, her boyfriend Mili (Anthony Grant), the Mayor and The Governor captive in the owner’s suite and presents his demands (a digital currency ransom). Jesse’s daughter, Mara, is snatched by Omega (Maresse Crump) and taken to the owner’s suite, where the Governor has been shot and killed. Jessie and his new reluctant partner, Gus (Gary Owen), discover Jobe’s plan. They are confronted by the formidable soldiers, including Gamma (Gillian White), Omega, Sigma (Adam Hurtig) and Devlin (Anthony J. Misfud), forcing Jesse to unleash his special forces training and exceptional fighting skills to save his daughter and the hostages. 

Martial Arts Content: When I heard that Michael Jai White and Maresse Crump were going to be in a movie together, I had two reactions: 1. Excitement, 2. Please, oh please let them be on opposite sides! Well, I got my wish! Jesse (played by MJW) and Omega (Maresse Crump) are adversaries and have a fight scene together. Before we get to that, the preliminary fights showcase Jessie’s fighting abilities. In these fights, stunt directors Dan and Rick Skene let MJW flex his Karate muscles. We see formed blocks and strikes that highlight MJW’s Karate background, specifically his Shotokon and Kykoushin expertise. These preliminary fights show that Jesse is deadly and efficient. Keep in mind that because MJW is an expert martial artist, we get wide-screen shots and little camera movement, which the stunt coordinators use to good effect. The first standout fight is Jessie (MJW) vs Gamma (Gillian White). Jesse underestimates Gamma and is quickly barraged with MMA-style punches, kicks and submissions, which take him by surprise, with her smaller stature and superior speed give her a slight upper hand…at least at first. I really think this is a great showcase for Gillian White and sets her up as a potential female lead in future action movies.

Now for what we are waiting for. Maresse Crump versus Michael Jai White! Both Michael Jai White and Maresse Crump are highly skilled martial artists and should be HUGE action stars. 

For those who may not be familiar with Maresse, he is an expert in the arts of Capoeira, Ninjutsu, Kali, and was a protege (along with Tony Jaa) of the famous late Thai action star and choreographer Panna Rittikrai. Michael Jai White, a holder of eight Black Belts in various martial arts, needs no introduction to fight-loving action audiences. 

While Michael Jai White displays forcefully strong blocks, strikes and kicks, Maresse Crump displays his signature speed, agility and creative attack angles. This contrast makes not only a good fight scene but shows the traits of their respective characters, Jesse and Omega. The fight lives up to the hype that we as martial arts movie fans can appreciate! My only complaint is that the fight scene left me wanting to see more MJW vs Maresse Crump! 

Review and Recommendation:

Welcome to Sudden Death is a B movie with typical action cliches, characters and plot line. But this is a GOOD thing. It is a throwback of sorts to 1990’s martial arts action movies, where the action and fight scenes are showcased with minimal wires, special effects and fluff. Michael Eklund does a great job as an old-school villain who was wronged and comes back for revenge.

In my opinion, too many critics want to see complex stories and character narratives, which lead to complex motivations and generic action sequences stolen from every hit action film. Welcome to Sudden Death avoids this. While this movie is a remake of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 1995 Sudden Death, director Dallas Jackson (Thriller) adds modern pop culture references, while skillfully coaxing spirited performances from his cast (I especially liked Mara’s spunk and Mili’s pseudo-gangsta Hip-Hop artist persona). As I stated before, Gillian White does a great job in her fight scene with hubby Michael Jai White, and I can see her as an up-and-coming female action lead with great upside. Gary Owen as the good-hearted janitor Gus provides comedy relief and helps offset serious, straight-faced Jessie, taking much of the gloom out of the situation.

Welcome to Sudden Death offers a return to a time when a simple plot, over the top action and great fight scenes meant entertaining viewing. Film Fan Dojo recommends this movie for action movie fans, martial arts movie buffs and anyone who wants to see some straight-up action and kick ass fight scenes with the feel of bygone moviemaking!

Welcome to Sudden Death is available now on Netflix, On Demand and DVD/Blu Ray.