Plot: Shale (Tom Berenger) is an elite level mercenary, but now he finds himself out of work thanks to a government snafu. He uses his free time to visit Jane (Diane Venora), an old flame who works at a rough, inner city school. When she is attacked by some students, Shale takes a substitute teaching position to see how out of control the school is. He gets a lot more than he expected, as it seems like a street gang is running large amounts of drugs through the school. With the help of his fellow mercs, Shale starts to uncover more about the gang, but he also tries to enlighten his students in class. Principal Rolle (Ernie Hudson) is critical of his methods, but with gang kingpin Juan Lacas (Marc Anthony) in his class, Shale can’t go by the book. How deep does the school’s corruption run and can even a skilled merc like Shale turn the place around?
Entertainment Value: These kind of vigilante teacher movies tend to crop up every so often, to scare us about how dangerous the schools have become. The Substitute is one of the most memorable, as it gives us Tom Berenger as a mercenary determined to shut down a trafficking operation and win the hearts & minds of his students. An action/crime movie set in a school, The Substitute throws realism out the window and just aims to entertain in an over the top style. The school has shoot outs, murders, drug trafficking, ties to a Native American cartel, and all kinds of other shit. How all this happens without raising any suspicions, I don’t know, but it is a lot of fun. Berenger is great here as the bad ass on a mission, refusing to let his task fail no matter what the cost. Because…he cares, you know. Not at first, but you know…he cares. If you like these kind of teacher on a rampage movies, The Substitute has all you could want and then some.
No nakedness, but there is erotic scratching of an itch under a leg cast. So yeah, beat off to that shit, right? The movie has some blood, but it is all gun related violence. You see some fisticuffs and explosions and what not, but the only bloodshed is from gunshots and an odd punch here and there. The squibs aren’t over the top, so the result is not graphic and the worst it gets is like spitting up blood or the like. A lot of tough guy talk that yields some hilarious lines, especially when macho face offs happen. Marc Anthony as the least intimidating gang leader tries his best to seem tough, but comes off more like Kip from Napoleon Dynamite. The concept is a wild one, but The Substitute doesn’t embrace the exploitation elements, so it never goes that off the rails. But there’s still some nice moments of WTF lodged into this one. I mean, Berenger makes a guy shit himself and squeezes another guy’s balls, what a hard ass.
Overall Insanity: 2/10