Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Film Review: THE SUBSTITUTE (1996, Robert Mandel)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 114 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Tom Berenger, Ernie Hudson, William Forsythe, Luis Guzman, Diane Venora, Marc Anthony, Cliff de Young, and the director, Robert Mandel, directed one of the best episodes of LOST ever, "Deus ex Machina."
Tag-line: " He has a lesson to teach. And nobody's going to have a problem with it."
Best one-liner: The educational setting lends itself perfectly for scads of one-liners. I really can't choose one. If I had to choose two, they'd be: "Shh. No talking in the library," and "You don't teach history anymore, Smith. You ARE history!"

You think Tom Berenger is scared of war? Think again. Dude made a meal out of WILLEM DAFOE in 'Nam during 'Platoon.' You think Berenger is afraid of a karate-choppin' Ernie Hudson? Hell, no. The last time Ernie kicked bum, he was playin' second fiddle bustin' ghosts to Dan 'Big Enchilada' Aykroyd. You think Berenger is scared by a bunch of drug-runnin' high school kids with guns? It's certainly within the realm of possibility, but no. He's not scared of 'em. In fact he's SO not scared-of 'em, that he decides to take over their class, smack 'em around a little bit. Take their weapons and knock 'em in the head with a crushed-up soda can.

All's going well until something happens that DOES scare Berenger. And that's when he starts gettin' through to them. They bond over similar scars from 'Nam and drive-bys, respectively. One of the kids slowly raises his hand and asks, "Yo, Mr. Smith, you lose any homeboys?" Berenger wistfully replies: 'Yeah, Jerome...I lost a few homeboys." And it is brilliant. Unfortunately, the movie then swerves into some more familiar action territory, but for a moment there, for the briefest of moments, I think I saw Berenger scared. As he says, "I noticed something strange was happening...I looked back, and they were listening to me..."

-Sean Gill

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