One Eight Seven

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One eight seven ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKevin Reynolds
Produced byBruce Davey
Stephen McEveety
Written byScott Yagemann
CinematographyEricson Core
Edited byStephen Semel
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • July 30, 1997 (1997-07-30) (U.S.)
Running time
120 minutes
Budget$20 million (estimated)
Box office$5,716,080 (USA)

One Eight Seven (also known and abbreviated as 187) is a 1997 crime drama film directed by Kevin Reynolds. It was the first top-billed starring role for Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a Los Angeles teacher caught with gang trouble in an urban high school. The film's name comes from the California Penal Code Section 187, which defines murder.

The original screenplay was written in 1995 by Scott Yagemann, a Los Angeles area high school substitute teacher with seven years of tenure. He wrote the screenplay after an incident when a violent transfer student had threatened to kill him and his family. Yagemann reported the threat to the authorities and the student was arrested. About a week later, he was called by the district attorney to testify against the student in a court of law, where the student was being prosecuted for stabbing a teacher's aide a year ago. This annoyed Yagemann, who had not been told about it beforehand, and led to him writing the screenplay. He claimed that 90% of the film's material is based on incidents that had happened to him and other teachers in real life.[1][2]


Trevor Garfield (Samuel L. Jackson) is an African American high school science teacher at Roosevelt Whitney High School, a high school in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Dennis Broadway (Method Man), a gangster student to whom he had given a failing grade threatens to murder him, writing the number 187 (the California police code for homicide) on every page in a textbook. The administration ignores the threat, and Dennis ambushes Garfield in the hallway, stabbing him in the back and side abdominal area multiple times with a shiv.

Fifteen months after surviving, Garfield, now a substitute teacher, has relocated to John Quincy Adams High School in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, but trouble starts again when he substitutes an unruly class of rejects, including a Chicano tag crew by the name of "Kappin' Off Suckers" (K.O.S.). Their leader, Benito "Benny" Chacón (Lobo Sebastian), a felon attending high school as a condition of probation, makes it clear to Garfield that there will be no mutual respect.

The tension mounts when a fellow teacher, Ellen Henry (Kelly Rowan), confides that Benny has threatened her life, an action against which the administration of the school refuses to take action, fearing legal threats. After Benny murders a rival tagger in cold blood, he disappears, and Benny's unstable tag partner, César Sanchez (Clifton Collins Jr.), takes over as leader. When César steals Garfield's family heirloom watch, the principal is more concerned about a lawsuit and refuses to take action. Ellen and Garfield develop a close friendship that approaches the beginnings of a relationship, but is stymied by Garfield's destabilizing behavior and his confrontations with the K.O.S.. Garfield's past garners the unwanted admiration of Dave Childress (John Heard), an alcoholic history teacher who carries guns at the school.

The conflict between Garfield and the K.O.S. escalates with the killing of Jack, Ellen's dog. César, after spraying cartoon graffiti depicting a dead dog, is shot with a syringe filled with morphine attached to the end of an arrow. He passes out, and wakes up to find one of his fingers cut off. César recovers the finger and it is reattached, with the letters "R U DUN" ("are you done?") tattooed as a warning.

A student Garfield has tutored, Rita Martínez (Karina Arroyave), a Chicana, faces abuse from both the K.O.S. and Childress, and drops out. The school administration is mired in bureaucracy and unable to intervene. After Benny is found dead in the Los Angeles River, apparently of a drug overdose, it is revealed that Garfield took matters into his own hands, killing Benny and severing César's finger. Garfield lets Ellen leave as she disavows his actions.

The K.O.S. plan to murder Garfield. At Garfield's house, the gang forces Garfield into a contest of Russian roulette with César. The latter's resolve is shaken as Garfield talks about the lost-cause lifestyle he has led. Hesitating at his turn, César watches as Garfield, offering to take his turn for him, takes the revolver and shoots himself in the head. Driven by his sense of honor and ignoring the protests of his horrified friends, César insists on taking his rightful turn and ends up killing himself .

On graduation day, Rita, who completes her studies along with former K.O.S. member Stevie Littleton (Jonah Rooney), offers a tribute to Garfield by reading an essay about him. The essay incorporates the theme of the Pyrrhic victory and Ellen leaves the school.


Actor Role
Samuel L. Jackson Trevor Garfield
John Heard Dave Childress
Kelly Rowan Ellen Henry
Clifton Collins Jr. César Sánchez
Tony Plana Principal García
Karina Arroyave Rita Martínez
Lobo Sebastian Benny Chacón
Jack Kehler Larry Hyland
Method Man Dennis Broadway
Kathryn Leigh Scott Anglo Woman


The film was poorly received by critics, receiving a 31% "Rotten" rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. The film grossed $5.7 million domestically in its theatrical release.

Filming locations[edit]

Verdugo Hills High School stood in for Adams High School[3]


One Eight Seven OST.jpg
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedJuly 29, 1997
GenreHip hop, electronica, trip hop
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4/5 stars[4]

The film's soundtrack was released under the title Music from the Motion Picture 187 on July 29, 1997 through Atlantic Records. Unlike films like Dangerous Minds and The Substitute that dealt with similar subject matter, this soundtrack did not receive an urban music soundtrack. Instead the soundtrack was made up of trip hop, a combination of hip hop and electronica.

Track listing[edit]

No.TitlePerforming artistLength
1."Slack Hands"Galliano4:46
2."Spying Glass"Massive Attack5:20
3."Release Yo' Delf (Prodigy Remix)"Method Man4:54
4."Stem"DJ Shadow3:25
5."Flipside"Everything But the Girl4:30
6."Karmacoma"Massive Attack5:21
7."In November"Dave Darling4:28
8."Neither Sing Sing nor Baden Baden"Bang Bang5:57
9."Raincry"God Within5:40
11."The Wilderness"V Love5:16
12."Mankind, Pt. 2"Jalal Mansur Nuriddin5:02


  1. ^ Yagemann, Scott (1997-08-04). "90% of '187' Is Based on Schoolteachers' Reality". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Archived from the original on November 4, 2016. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  2. ^ Weeks, Janet (1997-07-30). "Screenwriter: `187' Brutal - And All Too Real". Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on September 12, 2018. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  3. ^ "Feature films." Verdugo Hills High School. Retrieved on March 5, 2009.
  4. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]