Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Mandel|
|Written by||Roy Frumkes
Cliff De Young
and William Forsythe
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures|
|Running time||114 minutes|
The plot revolves around Shale (Berenger), a mercenary and a Vietnam veteran who goes undercover as a high school teacher in Miami to combat a gang. In the beginning of the film Shale comes home from a disastrous mission where three of his men were killed in an operation in Cuba. He arrives in Miami to find out that a knee-cap attack has left his girlfriend Jane Hetzko with a broken leg. Shale decides to play the part of a Harvard-educated substitute teacher and recruit his former soldiers (Raymond Cruz, Luis Guzmán, Richard Brooks, and William Forsythe) in order to find the culprits. While teaching history, Shale crosses paths with "Kings of Destruction" (KOD) gang leader Juan Lacas (Marc Anthony). Shale realizes that Lacas is responsible for Jane's attack, but that is just the tip of the iceberg of his nefarious activities. Shale's team infiltrates the school and sets up military surveillance gear throughout the bathrooms and corridors which lead to the discovery that Lacas is in cahoots with principal Rolle (Ernie Hudson) to use the school buses and their secret storage compartments as conduits for a heroin distribution ring in the greater Miami area.
- Tom Berenger as Jonathan Shale/Mr. James Smith
- Ernie Hudson as Principal Claude Rolle
- Diane Venora as Jane Hetzko
- Marc Anthony as Juan Lacas
- Glenn Plummer as Mr. Darrell Sherman
- Cliff De Young as Matt Wolfson
- William Forsythe as Hollan
- Raymond Cruz as Joey Six
- Sharron Corley as Jerome Brown
- Luis Guzmán as Rem
- Richard Brooks as Wellman
Roger Ebert gave the film one star out of four, writing: "I am so very tired of this movie. I see it at least once a month. The title changes, the actors change, and the superficial details of the story change, but it is always about exactly the same thing: heavily armed men shooting at one another. Even the order of their deaths is preordained: First the extras die, then the bit players, then the featured actors, until finally only the hero and the villain are left." James Berardinelli gave the film two stars out of four, writing: "The Substitute has its moments, all of which fall in the realm of high camp. ... Nevertheless, aside from a lot of only moderately-satisfying violence, The Substitute comes across as rather lame. It's not boring, but that dubious qualification isn't enough to earn the movie a passing grade. "
In an article about films about troubled teens, The AV Club stated: "There have been plenty of movies about white people coming into inner-city schools and whipping the students into shape, but nothing quite like The Substitute, which brings the subtly racist, paternalistic elements of those films right to the surface."
A more positive review came from Kevin Thomas, who wrote: "There's a sense of shrewd observation throughout The Substitute that makes it come alive and seem quite a few cuts above such usual genre fare." Similarly, Mick LaSalle wrote: "The Substitute is a guilty pleasure, but it's not garbage. Berenger brings to the role an appealing ruggedness and world-weariness, and Ernie Hudson, as the corrupt principal, is sleazy and elegant. The script isn't bad, either. The first meeting between Shale and the principal, in which they size each other up, is superb, and throughout the outlandish premise is handled with straight-faced intelligence."
- The Substitute 2: School's Out (1998)
- The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All (1999)
- The Substitute 4: Failure Is Not An Option (2001)
The movie was first released on DVD in 1997 by LIVE Entertainment. It was re-released on DVD and bundled with The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All in 2000.
- The Substitute - Rotten Tomatoes
- The Substitute Movie Review & Film Summary (1996) | Roger Ebert
- The Substitute - A Film Review by James Berardinelli
- Jason Heller, Noel Murray, Leonard Pierce, Nathan Rabin, Tasha Robinson, Scott Tobias. "The kids aren't all right: 17 scare films about the teen menace". The AV Club. July 21, 2008.
- The Substitute Review, Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2001
- FILM REVIEW -- `Substitute' Teacher Is a Real Gangbuster - SFGate