Sudden Fury (1997)

Dir: Darren Ward

Crime boss Randall (Paul Murphy) has stolen £2.5 million of cocaine from his rival, Harris.
Harris knows who hit him though and sends out his enforcer Pike (David, "The Beyond" Warbeck) to get the cocaine back.

Randall and his lieutenant Jimmy (Andy Ranger) hire top hitman Mike Walker (Nick Rendell) to take out Pike during the cocaine hand-over, but he is later betrayed by Randall and seriously wounded.

Now Walker is on the run with the cocaine, and plotting his revenge…...


This super low budget British crime/action film thankfully shows us the worst of its shortcomings early on. This then leaves the audience time to adjust as the film starts to deliver all the things it does well.
Very well.

The offending opening scene here is packed with really bad acting (which, along with the murky SOV look, is a failing the film never escapes) and OTT Mockney swearing and shows just how clever and astute the much maligned Guy Ritchie was with how he handled such sweary Cockney geeza scenes.
It does in fact take damn good acting, damn good casting of said actors and a damn good ear for dialogue structure to truly pull-off such sequences, and sadly this first scene in “Sudden Fury” shows us the way not to do it.

Things are not helped by the fact the supposedly scary gang boss, Randall, looks like a newly promoted small town bank manager and acts like one too.
Welcome to the least threatening gang boss in the history of anything remotely cinematic.

The plot is also rather chaotic and sometimes needlessly muddy (and has too much padding), but it has enough of the welcome (and they are welcome) Brit gangster/crime movie clichés, action film staples and general fun-stuffs to keep the audience entertained, even if their brows may furrow up with mild confusion now and again.
Hell you even have an explosive ‘war flashback’ sequence (though it looks like the woods in the local park, despite the added jungle sound effects) to ramp up the goodtime cheese factor.
And look out for some suitably grimy looking sex as well as our ‘hero’ gets down and dirty with a hooker who looks like she stepped out of a Den Dover ‘Reader’s Wives’ video shoot.

So enough of the negatives. Let’s wallow in all the good stuff!
Don’t go thinking, due to the above remarks, that there isn’t bags of stuff to enjoy here, or that director/writer/producer Darren Ward hasn’t pulled off some wonderful technical feats.

First off I have to acknowledge just how well done and effective the gun battles are.
Gun fights are actually very, very hard to pull off even with a big budget and to not have them look like a bunch of kids playing with wimpy- ass cap guns is a big trap to avoid for any small Indy production (just watch the awful gun scenes in J.R Bookwalter’s “Ozone” to see how bad super low budget, technically stunted, gun battles can be), but Ward avoids this trap by miles.

Here we have good looking guns, making ballsy sounds when fired , and that blast out hundreds of bullets all over the place.
Shoot these exact same scenes on film (sorry, but the SOV look does hurt the movie) and they would not be out of place in a Hollywood feature.
And when you add in the myriad squib hits on walls, objects and floors and some excellent action direction you have shoot-outs that completely deliver everything any action junkie could hope for.
Put it this way…during the grand finale Ward puts castrated Hollywood John Woo shoot-outs to shame. It’s that good.
And the clever, thankfully practical not bad CGI, FX work is the cherry on top as bullets blast people in the head, riddle torsos and shotgun blasts blow bloody holes through characters. The squib work here is quite simply phenomenal. Phenomenal!

Indeed all the gory FX work is very well done. With solid latex work, great looking blood and some pretty damn complex, on set, practical FX sequences and stunts that give the film real punch.
We even have a very impressive ‘guy on fire’ sequence as well.
So hats off indeed to the stunt guys, all the FX crew and to Ward for staging some superb action sequences, as well as for not going down the (nearly always fatal) easy, cheap, CGI blood route.
George Romero et al take note the next time you use shoddy CGI blood and blame the lack of budget for it…as Ward’s truly tiny budget and yet still ‘real’ blood/squib packed movie shows you all up.

Nasty/splatter highlights include a saw to the neck, crushed fingers, a disembowelling, blow torch deaths (Warbeck’s wild sneering and the actor’s full-on screaming really selling the scene), gratuitous murders of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ t-shirt wearing kids and of course those humongous blood squibs splashing and spurting everywhere.

The film also looks good as far as camera set-ups, angles, lighting and framing goes and Ward shows he knows how to make his film look professional despite the SOV picture quality limitations.
The music score is another plus too.
It’s packed with pounding electro beats and keyboard twiddling and backs the action well, again it’s not subtle but it works.

As far as the cast goes we have the aforementioned problem of the actor cast as Randall, but everyone else looks the part, even if their acting falls short.
The casting/acting gem here (although his character does slow up the main Walker/revenge plot) is the late and oh so lovely David Warbeck as the psychotic Pike.
Warbeck obviously knows this is not to be taken too seriously and so goes all out with a wildly enjoyable pantomime turn as a sadistic goon who routinely dishes out nasty ass tortures.
This isn’t a subtle performance at all, but he comes off much better than anyone else in the film because everyone else is playing it very seriously but simply can’t act well enough (sorry guys, but it’s true) to carry that serious attitude off.
So instead of Warbeck’s intentional black comedy, we often have unintentional silly comedy.

Although it has to be said that star Nick Rendell is good fun, even if his intense arm waving overshadows his less than intense line delivery.
He sure handles the action well enough though, so hey…we can forgive.
Andy Ranger also improves (although this has to be seen in context) from the opening scene as well and Victor D. Thorn has fun as Walkers big ‘n’ beardy nemesis.

What is slightly off-putting about Warbeck’s turn (given that he would soon die from cancer, this being his last performance) is how his character has coughing fits and has to suck on an inhaler (though again he does it in a wonderfully OTT way, even using the inhaler as a punishment at one point!) and I sort of hope this is simply a strange character trait and not Warbeck himself being ill and incorporating it into the role as, given his actual illness, it does not make for comfortable viewing.
But hell, perhaps this is just ballsy bravery on his part to do this.
RIP Mr Warbeck, you were a gent.

So overall some bad acting here and there (although saying that some of the death scene performances/screaming is very good), one case of very bad casting, sometimes less than stellar dialogue and the SOV look do hurt the film.
But there are honestly enough great technical achievements on show here to genuinely impress and the film is packed with so much bloody, gory, splattertastic moments and wonderfully crafted shoot-outs (plus Warbeck’s fun cameo) as well as good old, balls-out, movie fan, energy from the director and his crew that your heart can’t fail to warm to “Sudden Fury” and as such, as long as you are aware of its shortcomings, it does come very highly recommended indeed.

So well done everyone for giving us a rare thing…a full-on, blood drenched, bombastic British action film.

Ward has recently made a sequel "A Day of Violence" that's (at time of writing, June 2010) doing the festival rounds and which is meant to have ironed out some of the problems seen here, so that should be a must-buy on anyone's list once it gets a DVD release.