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Film Review: Sudden Fury (1997)

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SYNOPSIS:

Intent on seizing control of South East England’s cocaine business, small-time crime boss Randall hires notorious hit-man Walker to take out his competition. When Randall betrays the hit-man, however, the tables are turned.

REVIEW:

Darren Ward’s cult classic, Sudden Fury, is everything every action film of the 1980s and 90s aspired to be, but without the big budget and huge Hollywood names. There’s no Stallone here, or Schwarzenegger, or Willis; instead there’s actors like Nick Rendell (Walker), and Andy Ranger (Jimmy), and Paul Murphy (Randell). It’s got the obligatory sex scene (albeit an awkward one), a car chase (kind of), and a ton of gunfights with nearly-infinite ammunition. These are the things you want to see when you turn on an action movie, right?

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It’s also got a guy on fire, a flashback to war (is that Vietnam?), and the expected interrogation scene where torture accompanies an unwillingness to answer incriminating questions. And where it might lack in technical quality, and dialogue writing, and sound, and a handful of other things semi-essential to a good movie, it more than makes up for in over the top, excessive blood and guts. Tired of action movies where bullets are flying but hardly anyone bleeds? Sudden Fury makes up for it and then some!

Upon first glance, this film comes across as another Pulp Fiction/Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels copycat, but take another look (I had to). First off, Guy Ritchie’s film didn’t come out for another year. And while Sudden Fury has a couple Tarantino-like qualities (i.e. freeze frame introductions of the first couple characters to appear on screen), by the time we’re about fifteen minutes or so into the film, those similarities are in the rear view mirror and we find ourselves dealing with a whole other creature, one that we may have misjudged at first. Because the thing about this movie, it’s not that it rips off others, or that it’s poorly done; it’s that it feels like an action movie made by a fan of action movies. And I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a promising concept to me.

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The plot itself gets a little lost here and there, but here is the general idea. Randell is a powerful crime boss, dealing in drugs and thugs. He does not like it when people mess with him, and he hates it even more when his own people make mistakes.

Walker is a former military man turned for-hire criminal, who Randell knowingly sends into a trap, hoping he takes out his bosses foes (led by the sadistic Pike, played by the late David Warbeck in one of his final roles, a name no doubt familiar to Fulci fans, among others – Warbeck was Dr. John McCabe in one of the greatest movies of all time, The Beyond) before being taken out himself by Randell’s right hand man, Jimmy. But things don’t go quite as planned, and soon we’ve got a war brewing between rival drug factions, and it gets harder and harder to figure out who is on which side.

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Like I said, the ultra-violence and over the top gore is probably the high point of Sudden Fury. On the other hand, there are quite a few places where this film aims high but simply misses. The dialogue, not only the words that were written but also how they are delivered, is the big weak spot. Most, if not all, of the characters talk as over the top as they fight, with arm gesticulations and overuse of four letter words in order to get their point across (I’m all about swearing, but man, you can tell when it’s being subbed in for quality). While the plot was written well enough, the dialogue needed some help, leaving it coming off as more funny than probably intended. That is, when you can understand it – there are a handful of points where background noise or settings make the dialogue almost unintelligible.

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On one hand, Sudden Fury is a manic action movie with weak dialogue, weak acting, and decent-at-best camerawork. On the other hand, it is an all out adrenaline rush, a fun movie not necessarily showing the best of the action film genre, but trying its best to throw in every aspect of the genre.

There is blood everywhere, not to mention some truly twisted kills. There are a couple minor twists that are somewhat telegraphed, but still work within the world the film is set in. If you’re looking for perfection, you will find yourself looking somewhere else. If you’re looking for a genuinely fun time, a movie that you can appreciate for how hard it tries, no matter how silly it might come across at times, then yes, Darren Ward’s Sudden Fury has your name written all over it.

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