The Substitute - * *

The Substitute is a bizarre cross between Dangerous Minds and Rambo. The result is a poorly written and barely acted, but crowd-pleasing revenge flick. Tom Berenger is a covert operations specialist, disowned by the government after a mission goes sour. When his girlfriend (Diane Venora), a Miami high school teacher, is brutally attacked, he decides to take action against the gang responsible. Enlisting his former commando compatriots to back him up, he forges credentials as a substitute teacher and takes over his girlfriend’s teaching duties. Soon he is in battle with the local gang, the Knights of Destruction (or K.O.D.), and clashing with the politically aspriring high school principal (Ernie Hudson). Don’t let the ads fool you, this film is strictly in the action genre. There are one or two scenes in which Berenger actually tries to connect with the class, including a touching moment when Berenger and members of the class share war wound/gang wound stories. However, except for the K.O.D. leader, the remainder of the class remain enigmas, and soon the film gets about its business: revenge. I mean, who wouldn’t like to send a commando unit to perform a surgical strike against evil gangs. Who cares if the dialogue is stiff and at times preposterous. Who cares if the underlying plot is ridiculous. The point of this film is to watch someone fight back against the bad guys. And, while The Substitute is no cinematic masterpiece, it surely accomplishes its goal.

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