Netflixable? Michael Jai White tries to save an arena full of victims in “Welcome to Sudden Death”

Once and always “Black Dynamite” Michael Jai White deserves better than Hollywood ever gave him. Seeing him in a C-movie, still able to do the stunts but with filmmakers unable to hide the fact that much of this looks like fight rehearsals — walk-throughs — proves that.

This slow-footed, jokey, half-assed remake of Jean Claude Van Damme’s “Sudden Death,” is better than it has any right to be, mostly thanks to White. That’s still not very good, alas.

“Welcome to Sudden Death” jokingly references the Ur Text of all such thrillers, “Die Hard,” but it’s no joke. They all lean on that “one man” with “particular skills” who foils a murderous hostages held for ransom tale.

White is Jesse Freeman, who still has flashbacks to his combat exploits in the Middle East. Now, he’s on the security squad for a Phoenix basketball arena that’s attacked an elite squad of killer Bitcoin fans.

Alpha (Michael Eklund) wants to extort digital cash from the arena owner (Sabryn Rock). One novel twist? They smuggle 3D printers in to MAKE guns to use in the attempt.

Jesse stands in their way. And guess what? It’s take your kids to work day. Nothing like a couple of tweens to elevate the level of discourse.

“I can’t wait.” For what? “To watch my Daddy kick your ass!”

The comic-relief sidekick is goofball Gus (Gary Owen), the guy who keeps cracking that he should’ve called in sick, serving set-up lines for the leading man/hero.

Don’t go there, man. It’s suicide!

“Then I’m committing it saving lives!”

When your plot is over-familiar, the way to compensate for that is by sprinting through the action. Writer-director Dallas Jackson ignores that. This picture lacks urgency, with the fights slow and the bits between the fights even slower.

Even working from formula, White (his wife Gillian White plays a murderous minion of Alpha) delivers decent value in a couple of fights — the ones that don’t look like walk-throughs. I had to stop streaming and rewatch his disarming of one bad guy, he does it so fast.

Otherwise, there’s nothing welcoming about this “Sudden Death.”

MPAA Rating: R (Language|Some Bloody Violence)

Cast: Michael Jai White, Michael Eklund, Sabryn Rock, Gillian White, Gary Owen

Credits: Written and directed by Dallas Jackson, based on a script by Gene Quintano. A Universal Home Video/Netflix release.

Running time: 1:20

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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