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Sudden Death is a 1995 action movie, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. The film's story was written by Karen Elise Baldwin, the wife of then-Penguins owner Howard Baldwin. It also features Dorian Harewood and Raymond J. Barry, and is directed by Peter Hyams. It has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America. The film was shot during the 1994–95 NHL lockout. The film also was the first appearance of Iceburgh, the Penguins mascot.


Darren McCord (Van Damme) is a Canadian-born firefighter with the Pittsburgh Fire Bureau who was disgraced when he was unable to save a young girl from a house fire. Now removed from active duty, McCord handles fire security at Civic Arenamarker. While attending Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals with his daughter Emily and his son Tyler, he discovers a criminal operation occurring in the arena. A group led by former United States government employee Joshua Foss (Boothe) is holding Vice President of the United States Daniel Binder (Barry) and several other VIPs at gunpoint 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. McCord must not just stop Foss, but somehow send the game into overtime and save his children simultaneously.

McCord is first pulled into the plot when Emily is kidnapped by a hitwoman disguised as Iceburgh, the Pittsburgh Penguins' mascot. Emily witnesses the woman kill several people, and is spared when the killer runs out of ammunition. She places Emily in the suite with the other hostages. McCord, who had given pursuit, is left to search in vain. Realizing she has been "made", the killer returns to deal with McCord and a long fight breaks out. McCord proves to be more than a match for the killer. He manages to kill the woman by kicking her into a large dishwasher, which pulls on her penguin's head strap and strangles her.

McCord finds a security guard, but this man is a hostile in disguise. McCord gets the upper hand this time, though, and forces information out of the thug before stabbing him in the neck. McCord 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 (Harewood), who advises that McCord stand by while the agents take charge. McCord angrily refuses, saying that he will handle this himself.

The Secret Service and their assisting police officers make several attempts to storm the arena, with various degrees of failure. Meanwhile, McCord 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 McCord. It quickly transpires that Hallmark is yet another puppet of Foss's, influenced by money. McCord kills Hallmark and uses Hallmark's phone to contact Foss, who taunts McCord with the news that he is holding his daughter captive.

As time quickly ticks down, McCord manages to disable more bombs, but is severely slowed by confrontations with Foss' men. At one point, McCord must pretend to be the Pittsburgh goalie to escape the thugs and ends up successfully defending a shot. The third period runs down, but the Penguins, who up to this point have been losing by one goal, score the equalizer in the last second, bringing the game to sudden death. McCord decides that there's no time left to find the 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 a thug falling through the score display earlier and blowing it up. Foss sets off one of the bombs, flooding part of the arena, and recaptures Emily. They head up towards the top of the arena, where a helicopter is waiting to lift Foss away. McCord intervenes and saves his daughter, then brings the helicopter down, which explodes and promptly kills Foss.

As McCord 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 McCord is put inside the ambulance as the film ends.

Critical and box office reception

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. Most have cited its domestic failure due to its ill-timed release date in the crowded field of Christmas blockbusters.


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