The Substitute

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For other uses, see Substitute (disambiguation).
The Substitute
Substituteposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Mandel
Written by Roy Frumkes
Rocco Simonelli
Starring Tom Berenger
Ernie Hudson
Diane Venora
Glenn Plummer
Cliff De Young
Marc Anthony
Richard Brooks
Raymond Cruz
Luis Guzmán
William Forsythe
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Live Entertainment
Release dates
  • April 19, 1996 (1996-04-19)
Running time 114 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $14,818,176

The Substitute is a 1996 American action-crime-thriller film directed by Robert Mandel and starring Tom Berenger, Ernie Hudson, Marc Anthony, William Forsythe, Raymond Cruz and Luis Guzmán.

Plot[edit]

Shale (Berenger) is a mercenary and a Vietnam veteran who returns home to Miami after a botched covert operation in Cuba in which three men from his platoon were killed. He surprises his girlfriend, Jane Hetzko (Diane Venora) at her apartment and is warmly welcomed. On the outside, Jane is a schoolteacher at inner-city Columbus High School, an institution with a gang problem, complete with metal detectors and gates protecting its boundaries. She also clashes with Juan Lacas (Anthony), leader of the KOD ("Kings of Destruction") gang and has her leg broken in a beating while attacked on a morning jog. Jane and Shale believe this to be related to the KOD, which prompts the latter to go undercover as an Ivy League-educated, government-affiliated substitute teacher for his girlfriend's class.

Shale arrives at Columbus High School and is, at first, taken back by the lowly conditions. He is unable to control his class of poorly-educated students on the first day, but decides to use his street-smarts and military tactics to gain the upper hand. Soon enough, he is able to take command of the students by displaying his combat self-defence techniques when student's attack him and disciplinary action. He is warned not to use such methods by Principal Claude Rolle (Hudson), but gains the respect of his students when he bonds with them over the similarities between his early gang and Vietnam War experiences and their involvement in petty crime and street gangs. During this time, he befriends fellow schoolteacher Darrell Sherman (Plummer) and also crosses paths with Lacas, one of his students.

Suspicious of odd conditions within the high school, Shale sets up surveillance cameras across the building. He discovers that Lacas orchestrated the attack on Jane. He also discovers that Lacas is secretly working with Rolle to distribute cocaine around Miami for a major narcotics ring.

Cast[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

A soundtrack containing hip hop music was released on April 9, 1996 by Priority Records. It peaked at #90 on the Billboard 200 and #18 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.

Reception[edit]

The Substitute holds a rating of 38% on Rotten Tomatoes.[1]

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."[2] 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."[3]

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."[4]

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."[5] 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."[6]

Sequels[edit]

Three direct-to-DVD sequels were made with Treat Williams replacing Tom Berenger:

Home media[edit]

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.

References[edit]

External links[edit]