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Hops and Box Office Flops: ‘SUDDEN DEATH- Absurdity Goes Into Overtime’

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In 1988, Die Hard—a story of an off-duty cop tasked with seemingly insurmountable circumstances—was released to both commercial and critical acclaim. Though it featured a relative unknown (at the time) Bruce Willis, the film went on to gross over $140 million on a budget under $30. Aside from is wild success, its lasting impact was the template it set. It was an incredibly simple formula; and Hollywood execs—who are never afraid of running an idea into the ground—knew it. 

Thus, Die Hard clones hit cinemas nearly every year, and they came in all shapes and sizes. We had Die Hard on a boat (Under Siege, October of 92); Die Hard on a plane (Passenger 57, November of 92); even Die Hard on a bus (Speed, June of 94).

To be fair, two of the above were mega hits, Passenger 57 notwithstanding. As these things generally go, though, there tends to be a law of diminishing returns, so when Sudden Death checked its way into theaters in December of 1995, things didn’t quite go according to plan. Costing $35 million to make, it tanked stateside, earning just above $20. It did fare better overseas, but it remains illustrative of the point that not all films about Person A, in location B, fighting terrorist C were bound for box office domination.

Despite that, this film holds a special place in my heart. An unabashed rip-off of John McClane’s perilous adventure in Nakatomi Plaza, Sudden Death substitutes LA for Pittsburgh and a skyscraper for ‘the Igloo,’ the Civic Arena—once home to my beloved Penguins. That simple swap of locales alone is enough for it to stand apart; everything in between makes it that much better.

The film is a love letter to the Penguins franchise (perhaps unintentionally, but it was written by the wife of the owner at the time). Large portions of it were filmed in the arena, the game within the film is called by the actual Penguins announcers, Mike Lange and Paul Steigerwald, and it features cameos from a couple of players. I mean, Jeff Jimerson, the team’s National Anthem singer, even appears in this thing!

This movie literally nails the hat trick of elements to make an awesome action movie. Feature the Penguins: check. Include copious amounts of obscene action sequences: check. And have a smarmy, over-the-top villain who you can’t wait for the hero to kick the snot out of: check!

So sit back, grab a frosty Iron City Light, and enjoy as I, the Thunderous Wizard (@WriterTLK), and the Irate Lover prepare to strap on our skates and punch out ornery mascots.

This Weeks Segments:

  • Introduction – Our general reaction to the film and lingering questions we have. (00:00)
  • “Am I full of s**t or not?” – The Irate Lover attempts to debunk or confirm facts I discovered while investigating the interwebs. (33:20)
  • *Recasting Sudden Death  We recast this amazing film, replacing all the major roles with characters from Game of Thrones. (43:52)
    • *There are spoilers from earlier seasons of GoT.
  • Six Degrees of Movie Separation & Recommendations – The Irate Lover gives me two actors, and I must connect them in six degrees or less. (50:18)
  • *Thrones Talk – We dive into the final season of Game of Thrones, offering wild speculation on what lies ahead and discussing the best characters from the books who never appeared on the show. (1:07:45)
    • *This segment is dark and full of spoilers.

And, as always, hit us up on Twitter (@HopsandBOFlops) to check out all the interesting factoids—the 20-year oral history, which includes the story behind Van Damme’s immaculate glove save, and more—from this week’s episode!

You can find this episode of Hops and Box Office Flops, as always, on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, Podbean, and Spotify!

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Thomas L. Kelly

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