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After a botched mission in Cuba, professional mercenary Shale and his crew Joey Six, Hollan, Rem, and Wellman head home to Miami, Florida, where Shale is reunited with his fiance Jane Hetzko, who is a history teacher at Columbus High School in Miami. Some of Jane's students happen to be members of a street gang known as the "Kings of Destruction" (KOD), led by Juan Lacas, who has been terrorizing Jane. After Jane's kneecap is broken by a big seminole named Bull, she tells Shale that she believes Lacas ordered the attack, so Shale goes undercover as Jane's substitute, and initially, Jane has no idea that Shale is doing this. At the school, Shale meets principal Claude Rolle, librarian Hannah Dillon, and english and drama teacher Darrell Sherman. It turns out that Lacas is one of Jane's students. As Shale investigates the attack on Jane, he discovers that drugs are being circulated into the school. Shale even investigates local drug kingpin Johnny Glades, who may or may not have someone... Written by
These no-nonsense action films that try to convey some social statements have a soft spot in my books and therefore I sometimes rate these movies higher than they actually deserve. The Substitute is a late bloomer in this department since it actually received a theatrical release and did fairly well. Nowadays films like these go directly to video or television and the ambition that was invested in these films is today nonexistent.
The terribly underrated Tom Berenger plays a mercenary whose girlfriend is a teacher at a lower class high school. When she's attacked by a thug Berenger creates his own resumé and teacher credentials and assumes her position at the school and becomes the substitute teacher. Once there he discovers the school is run by a corrupt drug dealing principal who's using some students there to help him run his operation. Naturally Berenger, along with some of his mercenary friends, take action and attempt to stop this operation which culminates in a massive shoot out on school grounds.
While this is an action movie at heart, it also tries to relate some well meaning messages about today's youth. The way lower class kids are living, which is dangerously on the edge, their way of thinking and looking at the world around them. In a particularly nice scene, one character doesn't admit to being ashamed of how her life is but when asked if she wanted her child to replicate her life, well, that's another matter indeed. That one scene explains a lot and it's moments like these that actually make The Substitute a little bit more interesting than many other films of similar nature.
But the film doesn't go too far into social matters and quickly gets down and dirty with the action, which is well served and the film never slows down too much. All the cast are willing and able to entertain, some real quality actors here and they all fare well.
The Substitute in many ways represents a dying breed of movie-making and it will probably give movie fanatics a feeling of nostalgia in years to come.
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