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The Substitute (1995)



Average Rating: 4.2/10
Critic Reviews: 8
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 6

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 2.9/5
User Ratings: 17,132

My Rating

Movie Info

An ex-mercenary (Tom Berenger) becomes a take-no-prisoners teacher in a drug-ridden, gang-infested Miami high school in this campy morality tale about restoring lost American virtues to the inner city. Berenger's character, Shale, has no first name, a shadowy past as a patriotic gun-for-hire, and is temporarily unemployed and living with an idealistic teacher, Jane Hetzko (Diane Verona). Jane has angered a school gang leader, Juan Lucas (Marc Anthony), by asking the principal to get him


Drama, Action & Adventure

Jul 25, 2000

Live Home Video

Watch It Now



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All Critics (27) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (9) | Rotten (13) | DVD (5)

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.

February 13, 2001 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Aside from a lot of only moderately-satisfying violence, The Substitute comes across as rather lame.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Those who appreciate the irony of a killing machine turned loose on a pack of nasty students will find The Substitute a source of nonstop delight.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The entire setup is too garish to be credible.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There's a certain amount of camp value to this over-the-top thriller, which might as well be called Rambo Goes to High School.

January 1, 2000
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Worth the time for its occasional nuggets of interesting action, and the performance by Berenger.

August 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

What begins as watchable quickly degenerates into a no-brain action flick that produces a ton of derisive laughter.

October 9, 2005
Fantastica Daily

Really fun movie. Twist on the "Dangerous Minds" scenario.

July 22, 2003

Mediocre action flick with an ex-marine teacher taking his gang-banging students to task. Don't bother.

March 21, 2003

The silliness of The Substitute escalates as the film progresses, so that by the end there have been plenty of laughs during 'serious' scenes.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

A poorly written and barely acted, but crowd-pleasing revenge flick.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Cinematter

Settles for being a deranged version of The A-Team meets The Principal.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine
Boxoffice Magazine

This movie is a lot more entertaining than the Michelle Pfeiffer showcase Dangerous Minds.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco Examiner

Because The Substitute doesn't take itself seriously, it's a great deal of lowbrow fun.

January 1, 2000
Jam! Movies

Audience Reviews for The Substitute

Coming along some five years after the similar themed 'Toy Soldiers', two films about schools under fire from criminals. I guess that's about as far as the similarities go though as this is an undercover mission for some mercs/Nam vets where as the other film was terrorists taking over the school.

So a nasty messed up city high school is plagued by drugs, weapons and bad eggs, what is the Principle to do??. Hire a badass killer merc of course, but the thing is he doesn't know the sub is a badass killer merc. So both the yobbish kids and the staff have no clue this guy is an ex-Nam hardass. As things progress for the Berenger the merc he finds out all is not what it seems.

A perfect role for the stoic butch looking Berenger who can play military types till the cows come home. Not much is required of him really, beating the kids down, killing drug dealers, being a smartass...all in a days work. His little tight nit group of mercs are a cool bunch, a young Luis Guzman, the insane William Forsythe, military action flick regular Ray Cruz and Richard Brooks. A really good team of character actors that are great fun to watch, its just a shame we don't more of them in action together.

Most of the film is a huge stereotypical montage of standard scenarios you can see coming a mile away. Its all very predictable and you know Berenger will never get hurt. Its undeniably fun to watch these sequences where the youths are acting up with their gangland dialect, waving their hands around making gang signs, virtually behaving like cartoon characters whilst being dressed like bums. At the same time all the girls looks greasy, sweaty and thoroughly unwashed haha need I say almost all the youths are black, Latino or Hispanic. Yep this film doesn't beat around the bush with racial attitudes towards suburban inner city schools in the US.

So yes you could say its racist and a bad image on certain groups of young people but dare I say could it also be the truth?. That aside its still a rush to see Berenger humiliate the posers and stamp his authority on the class. I must also say Marc Anthony is really well cast as the slimy skinny gangland leader within the class, a simmering undertone ready to pop. You really do dislike this guy as the plot builds, you know Berenger could kick his ass but he still has that ominous presence, plus the fact he's only suppose to be a teen makes him even more annoying when he gets all mouthy.

The whole thing is pretty hokey and like I said before it is very predictable. The finale shoot out within the school is cool though no doubt about that, although I would have preferred if the bad guys had brought lots of gang thugs to the battle instead of their special ops guys. That kinda dismisses the fact the good guys are a special ops team, its suppose to be mercs vs drug dealing thugs.

Still its very cool to see all of Berenger's mercs kick ass in their own unique way. A final kudos to Ernie Hudson as the shifty principle of the school, his performance isn't much better than his hammy role in 'Congo' but that's why its so good. Definitely a bit of an adrenaline rush at times with this one, I think everyone has had fantasies about kicking the crap out of their old school bullies at some point. This would probably be a step too far but I'm sure being a badass merc teaching out of control youths a lesson would still be right up there.
December 5, 2013

Super Reviewer

review soon.........
March 27, 2013

Super Reviewer

A cross between two different types of movies. The inspirational teacher / student movie and an action movie.
I liked it but there wasn't anything about it that really rocked my world. The characters were plain and cookie cutter, the plot was simple, and the action wasn't anything special.
But it was an entertaining watch.
July 24, 2010

Super Reviewer

Unlike many Tom Berenger Movies, this was one typical Tom Berenger Movie I thought. Unlike the Original one, this piece of Remake was very well done.
December 16, 2009
Wahida K

Super Reviewer

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