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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