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"THE SUBSTITUTE"
(1996) (Tom Berenger, Ernie Hudson) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Moderate Moderate Heavy Moderate Extreme
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate Minor Moderate Heavy Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Mild None Moderate Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
A former CIA mercenary goes undercover at a high school to find out who was behind an attack on his girlfriend who is one of the teachers there.
PLOT:
A CIA mercenary, Shale (TOM BERENGER), finds himself and his team abandoned by the CIA. Looking for "work," he meets with Wolfson (CLIFF DE YOUNG), a Miami entrepreneur who's looking for protection for an illegal drug trade. Shale declines due to the involvement of drugs and goes to see Jane Hetzka (DIANE VENORA), the woman in his life and a teacher at a troubled inner city high school. The biggest problems are created by Juan Lacas (MARC ANTHONY), the gang leader of the K.O.D., or Kings of Destruction. They literally run the school with Principal Rolle (ERNIE HUDSON), a former cop and now political candidate. When one of Lacas' thugs breaks Jane's leg, Shale decides to infiltrate the school as a substitute teacher to find the guilty party. With the help of Joey (RAYMOND CRUZ) and his other partners he discovers that the illegal drug trade he earlier refused is tied directly into the school through local drug kingpin Johnny Glades (RODNEY A. GRANT). From that point on, Shale decides to bust up the drug ring and at the same time help the students who are willing to forgo the gang lifestyle.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
If they're into movies about gangs they will. Otherwise, there are no big draws to kids in this film.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For strong violence, language and brief nudity.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • TOM BERENGER plays the former mercenary who takes the school kids plight to heart and wants to clear out the drug ring. He does, however, use extreme violence and murder to do so.
  • DIANE VENORA plays the dedicated teacher who wants nothing more than to teach her students. She stands up for what she believes in by not backing down from Lacas and his gang.
  • MARC ANTHONY plays the gang leader who's nowhere near being a good role model.
  • ERNIE HUDSON plays the principal who turns out to be involved with the Lacas gang and the drug ring. He's definitely not a good role model.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
    Harking back to the vigilante films that Charles Bronson popularized in the 1970's, this film will appeal to those who like seeing the bad guys get their comeuppance. If that's the type of film you like, this one will certainly entertain you as it does its requisite job of setting up the bad guys and then bringing in the hero whose mission is to clean house. Berenger gives an okay performance as the hardened soldier who comes to know and then care for his students (although their similar transformation takes place way too quickly). Hudson and Anthony create "good" enough bad guys for the audience to cheer when they're foiled at the end. Still, there's nothing here we haven't seen before, so we give this film a 5 out of 10.
    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Many kids might miss the anti-drug, anti-gang views of this film and instead focus on the "cool" gang leader and his followers. The movie is chock full of violence and profanity and makes the point of using violence to deal with violence. In addition, other than the school teacher and a few of the students, there aren't many good role models. There's also a great deal of rap music that contains profanities, some sexual references and glorification of the gangster lifestyle (and possibly lots more that couldn't be deciphered from the incoherent lyrics). As always, read through the category listings before allowing your children to watch this film.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • It turns out Rolle is in cahoots with Juan and they're working with Johnny Glades to supply drugs to the high school students.
  • Cocaine is purchased for cash and later more cocaine is seen in the school basement where Rolle, Juan and others are hiding it for safe keeping.
  • Shale and/or his men occasionally drink beer.
  • Juan and his gang drink in public.
  • Shale and Jane drink champagne.
  • BLOOD/ GORE
  • A student who's been beat up is a little bloody.
  • Wolfson's rather bloody after Shale has beaten him over the head with a helmet several times.
  • Shale's somewhat bloody after having been beaten by Juan and his gang.
  • There's a big blood spurt when Juan is shot in the side.
  • Many people are shot, wounded and/or killed during the last big shootout/fight scene at the end. Thus, there's a great deal of blood oozing or spraying from bodies.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Juan and his gang aren't respectful to Jane. Later he threatens her and then has one of his associates break her leg while she's jogging.
  • Jane's students rummage through her desk and cabinets when they hear that she won't be coming to school because of her broken leg. When Shale shows up as the substitute teacher, they don't give him any respect either.
  • After Shale responds to physical threats from the students, one of them says "You're a dead motherf**ker" to him.
  • Principal Rolle is involved in selling drugs to his own students.
  • FRIGHTENING/TENSE SCENES
  • Some viewers may find scenes listed under "Violence" as tense or suspenseful.
  • Juan and his gang come after Jane after she's returned some sort of gang hand signal at them. They jump on and spit at her car as she quickly drives away.
  • Jane walks through her parking garage and we think that the gang is going to get her at any moment.
  • A teacher and a student come across Rolle and his drug operation in the school basement. The bad guys then chase after the two as they first try to get out of the school (but the doors are chained shut) and then hide. He sacrifices himself so that the student will be safe and he ends up getting shot by Rolle.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns/Machine Guns/Knives/Grenades: Used to threaten, injure or kill many people. For details, see "Violence."
  • Throwing stars: Thrown by Shale into a wall map.
  • Water Uzi guns: Seen at a strip joint where it's "Uzi night" and men shoot streams of water from their plastic Uzi's onto the strippers.
  • Shale's men practice their shooting skills at a firing range.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Bitch," "Bastard," "Queers," and "Shut up."
  • Wolfson farts really loud while meeting with Shale.
  • Juan gives Shale "the finger" and others are seen doing the same in other scenes.
  • The students don't respect Jane or Shale as their teacher (although some of them do come around later on).
  • JUMP SCENES
  • Jane walks through her parking garage and we think that the gang is going to get her at any moment. She waits for the elevator and jumps when it opens, but it's only Shale.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • Several scenes have moderately tense music.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • Although many of the lyrics can't be understood, we did hear the "f" and "s" words as well as several uses of the word "nigger."
  • There's a line about unprotected sex with Oprah in one of the rap songs and another about Sharon Stone and "getting blown."
  • A song talks about a murderer while another song glorifies gangsters in the end credits.
  • PROFANITY
  • 77 "f" words (11 with the prefix "mother"), 35 "s" words, 12 "ass" words, 7 hells, 5 damns, 2 SOB's, and 3 uses each of "God" and "God damn," and 1 use each of "My God" and "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Bare breasted women are seen dancing in a strip joint (bare butts are seen as well in thong bikini bottoms).
  • When Shale calls roll and asks where a student is, another one responds "He's in the hall rubbing your momma's booty (butt)."
  • Shale and Jane make out while lying on her couch, but the scene ends before anything else happens.
  • There's a line about unprotected sex with Oprah in one of the rap songs and another about Sharon Stone and "getting blown."
  • SMOKING
  • Shale has an unlit cigar in his hand and later is seen smoking it.
  • Joey smokes a cigarette.
  • Some students smoke in a school bathroom.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • None.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Gangs and the lifestyle of a gang member.
  • Whether what Shale and his associates did was the appropriate thing to do (killing off all of the drug dealers instead of going to the police).
  • VIOLENCE
  • It's reported that three of Shale's men died in a covert operation to destroy a Cuban drug processing plant.
  • One of Shale's men kicks over a TV when he learns the CIA has abandoned them.
  • A student holds another boy while a third punches and kicks the boy.
  • Juan and his gang jump onto Jane's car and threaten her, but she quickly drives away.
  • Shale tosses throwing stars into a wall map.
  • A mercenary's demo tape (done as a commercial) shows fighting, explosions, and him stabbing and killing people (although since it's a commercial -- it's probably all staged).
  • Shale grabs Wolfson by the throat and pushes him back against the wall when he finds out he's hiring people to protect a drug business.
  • A large man breaks Jane's leg with a pole and then fights with Shale. Many punches and kicks are thrown and the man eventually runs away when police sirens are heard.
  • Shale grabs one of his partners by the crotch when he says that Shale "doesn't have any balls."
  • A student throws a can at Shale who spins around, catches it and throws it back at the kid, hitting him in the head. The student then throws a punch at Shale who blocks it and takes the kid to the floor. Shale then demands an ice pick from another student who refuses until Shale bends one of his fingers backwards.
  • Shale and the students talk about the many deaths and injuries in Vietnam. Several of the students then show scars from where they were stabbed and/or shot when the discussion turns to gang warfare.
  • Juan and some of his gang ready their guns to kill Shale when he leaves the school. Shale does the same and dons a bulletproof vest for his encounter with them. Juan and company then chase Shale back into the school library where Rolle's security guards join forces with the gang. Shale grabs one of them and puts his gun to his head, ordering the others to drop their guns. He then gets the librarian to lock up all of the guns and then throws books at the bad guys. They then begin fighting hand to hand and eventually most of the gang members and the guards are thrown from the second floor window, landing on the ground below (bruised but apparently not too hurt). One of the members then finds Shale's gun and shoots him in the chest. Shale falls to the floor and is apparently dead. Juan and this other member then go to shoot the librarian but Shale appears (the bullet proof vest saved him) and tosses the last two guys out the window.
  • Shale and Joey interrupt a cocaine purchase. Joey shoots two of the suppliers dead while Shale gets ready to fight the other two. Another of Shale's men shows up and shoots one of the two purchasers and then lets the last man get in several punches to Shale's face and body before shooting him dead.
  • Johnny Glade, upset that the above cocaine purchase was interrupted, takes one of Rolle's students and grinds him up in an air boat's large fan blade (heard but not seen).
  • Two drug guys drive by Shale's truck and fire their guns at him. His truck runs off the road, crashes into a mobile home and turns over on its side. It's reported the next day (by Rolle) that Shale's died, but of course he didn't.
  • A teacher and a student come across the drug ring operation in the basement and then try to flee, but he's caught by the bad guys in the school gym. He climbs up a rope to get away from them, but a gang member climbs up another rope and stabs the teacher in the arm with a knife. He falls to the floor where Rolle shoots him in the back, killing him.
  • Shale finds Wolfson on a jai alai court and starts to come after him. Wolfson throws several balls at him and then tries to run away. Shale catches him and beats him over the head with a helmet until he starts giving up some answers.
  • Two students go to Jane's home where Juan and his gang tape them with duct tape. Juan then holds a gun to Jane's head and waits for Shale to arrive. He eventually does and shoots one of the gang members with a shotgun but is then hit with a stun gun and falls to the floor. Juan and others then kick Shale and smack Jane. Shale then stabs one guy in the leg, hits another with throwing stars and then shoots two more dead. Juan threatens to kill Jane and Shale drops his gun. He then aims his gun at Shale and almost shoots but one of the students shoots and kills him first
  • Shale and his men wait at the high school for the drug guys to show up. They do and there's a massive gun battle where many people are shot and wounded. A rocket launcher is fired and kills two people. Drug guys are blown up when they open a trap door where the cocaine has been booby trapped. Others are knifed in the body and the throat. A wounded mercenary pulls out his grenade and blows up himself and a drug guy. Eventually the participants are narrowed down to Shale, Rolle and Johnny Glades. There's a big fight scene with punches and kicks thrown to face and body. Finally Glades is killed and Shale and Rolle fight with Shale killing him with a severe blow to the head. It's a very violent, bloody sequence of events.



  • Reviewed September 20, 1996

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