The Substitute (1996): Breakdown by Rantbo. NOTE: I apologize in advance for the shitty pictures. I watched this on VHS, so I had to rely on the Internets to get images for a movie nobody cares about, nor remembers. This is the best I could do. Sorry.
Mercenary with a heart of gold, teaches inner-city kids the magic of learning. Then kills several of them.
It was the 90s and movies about disgusting urban shithole schools were all the rage, and LIVE ENTERTAINMENT didn’t want to be left sucking hind-tit. Thus, THE SUBSTITUTE. Shitty music, asshole teenagers, drugs and gang violence rule the school and it’s up to one teacher and his bleeding heart to wash away all the graffiti and make a difference. Think STAND AND DELIVER meets KINDERGARTEN COP.
Look, I saw DANGEROUS MINDS, 187, LEAN ON ME, HIGHER LEARNING, THE PRINCIPAL and SISTER ACT 2–and I still don’t give a shit. Maybe I’m just an asshole, but I say fuck helping those who have no interest in helping themselves. But, THE SUBSTITUTE took this already-tired-in-’96 genre and amped it up by having a large (for the genre) body count. So, it’s not all bad.
Out of nowhere, the last 20-25 minutes turned into a gay 80s style action movie and was pretty damn entertaining. It features a grandiose shoot-out in the halls of a Miami high school, including machine-guns, grenades, a rocket launcher and a surprisingly high body count. Where else are you going to see all that, plus PLATOON’s Sgt. Barnes throw down fisticuffs with the black Ghostbuster? Maybe in my dreams, but my dreams aren’t on DVD–Yet.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Tom Berenger is Jonathan Shale is Mr. Smith
Well, he’s covered in scars–that has to count for something right? I mean, scars are always cool. But, the question is, are they enough to make Berenger worthy of the title of Bad-Ass. Not alone, no. Berenger does have the look of a man to be taken seriously, but throwing pop-cans and books at unruly kids does not a bad mother fucker make. Add to this the fact that he is a little paunchy and (until the end) only really beats up on J-Lo’s skinny-ass 3rd husband–I’m not convinced. The REAL badass of this film is Hollan–William Forsythe. This mother fucker knows how to bang. Unfortunately, he’s barely in the movie and dies rather un-heroically. God damnit.
[THE BODY COUNT: 32]
Berenger’s team of mercs whip them up some ass, despite being lead by Tom Berenger. 28 of the 33 kills belong to team B., while da bad guys only manage a paltry sum of 3. Of course, one of the three was Forsythe, and he easily counts as more than one man in my book. But, I have to be official and keep my opinions off the final total. ~Grumble~. Most of the deaths are simple shoot-squib-fall down, but even though they are lackluster, I was still so surprised that this movie started kicking ass, that I didn’t care. This film still beats the Bourne movies on the Bad-Ass-O-Meter any day, simply by the fact that they aren’t afraid to show people dying violently. Now, if you happen to be counting at home, you’ll have noticed that there is still one kill unaccounted for. And it’s Luis Guzmán. He grabs one of the bad guys and uses a grenade to suicide bomb himself and the bastard that shot him, sending the two of them to overweight Latin Hell.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
I’m gonna have to go with Mr. Sherman, the drama teacher. Though not a bad guy, Sherman is a nimrod that got and stayed on my nerves up until his demise. After bitching out Berenger for telling the truth (that Principal Ernie Hudson was a dope-dealer), ‘cuz he was obviously just trying to keep the black man down, this wormy little goof stumbles upon the cold hard fact that whitie was right. And he gets gunned down while crawling on his belly for seeing the truth too late. Serves him right, Whoopi Goldberg-looking motherfucker.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
While Berenger does form a friendship with a young buff student and the movie is a tale about teaching children to respect authority, this flick is surprisingly un-scandalous. Which is a shame, when you think about how easily they could have turned the situation into something sexy. But, alas, Berenger never diddles anyone other than his asexual looking girlfriend.
However, there is Joe. Joey Six, to be specific. JS is one of Berenger’s merc buddies. This guy is constantly shirtless and wears his hair like a female body builder would. And he totally has a crush on Berenger, you guys! After the final shootout, Berenger steps out of the school’s front doors and finds Joey bleeding on the front steps and Six gets all excited:
JS: “I–I thought I lost you, man!”
And then the two walk off into the sunset, talking well into the credits about where they should move together next. With no mention of Berenger’s girlfriend. I love a happy ending.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Berenger’s husky-voiced GF is bashed in the knee Nancy Kerrigan style by an FBI (Fucking Big Indian). She of course cries like the weaker gender she is, but it’s made quite clear that she was the victim and undeserving of her beat-down. Waaah!
At one point the merc team meets at a strip club where the hookers–scuse me, “Dancers” are topless (you can’t spell Substitute without tit!) and being hosed down with squirt-gun uzis. Yeah, I don’t get it either.
Then of course there are the dozens of overweight teenage mothers parading around the school’s halls, reminding me why I’m pro-sex education, pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia and sterilization. We MUST stop dumb people from fucking other dumb people, people!
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
When asked by Berenger to explain how he does not fear getting robbed of his fancy watch, Principal Ernie Hudson reenacts his yearly demonstration of breaking a board in two with his fist:
“Power perceived–is power achieved.”
The runner-up line being:
“You don’t teach history anymore Smith. You ARE history!”
It was a photo finish.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
The final stage of D.A.R.E. is murder and William Forsythe is a B.A.M.F. But we knew that already.
[THE CHECKLIST: 15 outta 25]
[ ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[X] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [The Substitute 2: School’s Out]
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
*There’s a gym, close enough.