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"187"
(1997) (Samuel L. Jackson, Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez) (R)

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


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A teacher battles for control of his classroom and his dignity with several gang members.
PLOT:
Trevor Garfield (SAMUEL L. JACKSON) is a Brooklyn teacher who cares about his students. Trying to teach them science in inventive ways he still has problems with some students. When he gets a "187" threat, a gang term for murder, it's too late. For a student wants him dead and then repeatedly stabs Trevor in the back, sending him first to the hospital, and then fifteen months later, across the country to Los Angeles looking for a new beginning in teaching. Nevertheless, he ends up with an even worse class as a substitute teacher. Chief among the troublemakers are gang members Benny (LOBO SEBASTIAN) and Cesar (CLIFTON GONZALEZ GONZALEZ) who continually disrupt his class. Several other teachers, such as Dave Childress (JOHN HEARD), a grizzled classroom veteran, and pretty newcomer Ellen Henry (KELLY ROWAN) who's already been threatened by Benny, commiserate with his problems. There are a few bright spots, however, as Trevor and Ellen become friends, and one student, Rita (KARINA ARROYAVE), is smart and really wants to learn. Eventually the troublemakers push Trevor and the others too far. As bad things start happening to the troublemakers, everyone begins to wonder exactly what type of teacher Trevor really is.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
The gang-related material might draw some older kids and some may be fans of Jackson, but other than that there's not much of a draw for most kids.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For violence, strong language, drug use and brief nudity.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • Beyond KELLY ROWAN playing one of the teachers, there are no other good role models in this film, including SAMUEL JACKSON.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 8.5 out of 10
    Projecting a very bleak view of inner city schools with an even bleaker solution to their numerous problems, "187" certainly isn't a happy film. Nevertheless, it's incredibly powerful, thought provoking, and will stay with you long after you leave the theater. Filled with impressive performances from all of the cast members and competently helmed by director Kevin Reynolds, this is one of the better films of the year. Its gritty and often grim approach, however, will make it unsavory to many audience members. Having been jettisoned by actor Kevin Costner from his last big budget effort, "Waterworld," Reynolds scales down this production and the close confines of the cramped, oppressively hot classrooms creates the perfect atmosphere for this film. Shot in an impressive, almost always moving style, Reynolds uses the camera to create moods, though at times the out of focus and soft perimeter focus shots might have audiences thinking something's wrong with the projector. Of course it's all done to depict Trevor's descent in and out of madness. And there's no one better to play this role than Samuel L. Jackson. Bearing a striking resemblance to the Michael Douglas character in the film, "Falling Down," where Douglas finally had enough and violently took on anything and everything that got in his way of him seeing his daughter, this film takes that character and plot one step farther. Always a charismatic, expressive performer, Jackson creates a sympathetic character here with deep, dark levels that aren't explored or even discovered until we're way into the story. This is probably Jackson's strongest piece of work and gives him an outside chance of earning another Oscar nomination (his other being for "Pulp Fiction"). Other performances are just as good, including Gonzalez as the disturbed troublemaker. Despite the fact that he plays the "bad guy," you have to admire his convincing performance. While you've seen this story many times before -- the new high school teacher makes changes with troubled students in an inner city school -- rarely has it been as powerfully portrayed as it is here. Although many will be put off by the film's bleak outlook and often brutal, ugly violence, it may just be one of the best films you'll see all year. We were very impressed by it and give "187" an 8.5 out of 10.
    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    With nearly all of the film's categories filled with objectionable material -- and much of it rated as extreme -- this is a disturbing film that will turn off many viewers and is probably unsuitable for younger viewers. Particularly disturbing is the students' disrespect toward their teachers and their physical threats toward them. Equally disturbing is a match of Russian roulette where Trevor repeatedly pulls the trigger of a gun aimed at his head. He does so to prove that he's not scared of the students and that he doesn't care whether he lives or not. He then challenges a gang member to do the same. There's also drug use, female nudity, and extreme amounts of profanity. Although younger kids will probably have no interest in this film, some teens might. Due to the high level of objectionable material, we strongly suggest that you read through the content to determine whether you and/or any of your older children should see this film.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Several students/gang members pass around and smoke a joint in several scenes.
  • Trevor and Ellen drink wine with dinner.
  • Cesar drinks liquor straight from the bottle in his house.
  • Cesar and his gang walk down the street carrying exposed bottles of liquor.
  • It's reported that morphine was in the system of a dead student.
  • Cesar is drunk or high while spray painting graffiti.
  • Childress appears somewhat drunk and admits to drinking two beers and later drinks another.
  • Cesar drinks liquor straight from the bottle while watching the Russian roulette scene from the movie "The Deer Hunter."
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Trevor's back is bloody after being stabbed with a nail. Later, we see his heavily scarred back.
  • A dead rat, impaled by a pair of scissors, is a little bloody.
  • A dead dog is seen hanging by its chain and collar over a wall.
  • Cesar awakens to find a bloody stump where his trigger finger was, and later in the hospital, a bloody finger drops from a just delivered envelope. In addition, there's blood on his face.
  • A dead, partially decomposed person is seen washed up in a river.
  • Trevor's lip is bloody after being hit.
  • Blood splatters during a dare of Russian roulette and later we see a pool of blood around a person's head.
  • We see several bodies in a morgue (not bloody or gore, just cadavers).
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • The troublemakers (the students in the gangs) have extreme cases of both as they not only continually disrupt Trevor's class, but they intimidate, threaten, or kill others.
  • Some (or many) may see Trevor's solution to his problems (violence) as not the correct way to handle the problem.
  • Many male students call female students "bitch."
  • Cesar steals Trevor's heirloom watch, so Trevor illegally gets Cesar's locker number and retrieves the watch.
  • Cesar kicks and hits his own mother to get her out of the way of his watching TV and then spits in Trevor's hand when he reaches out to shake hands.
  • Childress (a teacher) admits to having sex with Rita.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • The troublemakers (the students in the gangs) have extreme cases of both as they not only continually disrupt Trevor's class, but they intimidate, threaten, or kill others.
  • Some (or many) may see Trevor's solution to his problems (violence) as not the correct way to handle the problem.
  • Many male students call female students "bitch."
  • Cesar steals Trevor's heirloom watch, so Trevor illegally gets Cesar's locker number and retrieves the watch.
  • Cesar kicks and hits his own mother to get her out of the way of his watching TV and then spits in Trevor's hand when he reaches out to shake hands.
  • Childress (a teacher) admits to having sex with Rita.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns: Used to threaten, wound, or kill people. See "Violence" for details. Also, Childress has a handgun in his desk and a cabinet full of them in his garage.
  • A nail block (a small piece of wood with a nail sticking from it): Used by a student to stab Trevor repeatedly.
  • Arrow: Shot into Cesar's chest and tipped with a syringe filled with morphine.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Screwing" (used sexually), "Nigger" (from black person to black person and from Hispanic person to black person), "Bitch" (toward women), "Balls" (testicles), "Bastard," "Freagin," "Slut," and "Go to hell."
  • Several troublemakers force Trevor to play Russian roulette and he makes one of them do the same. Some kids may see this as a macho thing to emulate.
  • Many students ignore or make fun of Trevor as he tries to gain control of the class and/or teach. Some play cards, same draw on the desks, and in one scene they've thrown all of their books out the window. Also, several of them threaten Trevor's life.
  • Trevor takes the law into his own hands and deals with his problems with violence.
  • Trevor rides his bike through the school hallways and down the stairs to get to class.
  • Students and gang members spray paint graffiti onto walls in several scenes.
  • Benny balls up a disciplinary paper just given to him and throws it at Trevor.
  • Cesar gives "the finger" to other students.
  • Cesar spits in Trevor's hand when he reaches out to shake hands.
  • Trevor walks out to find the term "187" scratched on his car and later finds it spray painted on his house.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • There is a moderate amount of suspenseful music in a few scenes.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • There are a few rap songs with lyrics that we couldn't understand, so there could be some material there, but nothing that was clearly heard.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 58 "f" words (8 with the prefix "mother," 4 used sexually, as is the term "screwing," and there are three instances where the "f" word is seen written or on a computer screen), 32 "s" words, 13 "ass" words (3 used with "hole"), 6 damns, 5 hells, 1 S.O.B., and 2 uses of "Jesus Christ" and 1 use each of "For Christ's sakes" and "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Several boys are seen leaving a shed and Rita is then seen putting her clothes back on (specifically her bra), thus implying that they all had sex with her.
  • A billboard on the road reads "Topless traffic school," but the only thing seen is a silhouette of a shapely woman.
  • Thinking that she has to thank Trevor for tutoring her, Rita takes off all of her clothes and lies on his sofa for him. Her full, nude body is seen, but due to positioning, only her bare breasts are exposed. He tells her to put her clothes back on.
  • Childress admits to having sex with Rita and states that she's a "slut."
  • Several nude male cadavers are seen lying on a table with small towels covering their genitals.
  • SMOKING
  • A school administrator smokes a pipe.
  • Cesar and his buddies smoke in a few scenes.
  • Childress smokes in a few scenes.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Cesar's mother says that she wishes sometimes that he would be "taken" (killed) since she can no longer control him. In another scene, he kicks and hits her to get her out of the way of his watching TV.
  • A mother of a gang member identifies his body at the coroner's office.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Gangs.
  • Respecting teachers and the fact in the movie that states that one in nine teachers in schools has been attacked, and ninety-five percent of the perpetrators have been students.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Trevor is attacked by one of his students and repeatedly stabbed in the back with a nail block (a small piece of wood with a nail sticking out).
  • A guy spray painting graffiti on other graffiti is shot in the leg and then shot repeatedly until he's dead.
  • Cesar kicks and hits his own mother to get her out of the way of his watching TV.
  • Trevor returns to his classroom only to find that it's been destroyed and that they have killed their science rat with a pair of scissors.
  • Childress slams a student into a wall after finding the above.
  • Cesar threatens Trevor and gestures like he's shooting him.
  • Trevor and Ellen find her dog dead, hanging by its chain and collar over a wall.
  • Cesar is shot in the chest with an arrow tipped with a syringe full of morphine. When he awakens, he finds that his trigger finger's been cut off.
  • Trevor slams a gang member against a bathroom wall.
  • Cesar accuses Rita of sleeping with Trevor, pushes her to the ground, and then hits her several times, the last of which rips open her shirt.
  • The scene from the movie "The Deer Hunter" is seen where they play Russian roulette and we hear the sound of a person being shot in the head.
  • A thug hits Trevor on the face with his gun.
  • Several people gamble with their lives playing Russian roulette and two of them end up shooting themselves in their heads.



  • Reviewed July 24, 1997

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