The first Substitute movie starred Tom Berenger as a mercenary who went undercover as a schoolteacher to find his fiancées tormentors. While this movie in and of itself qualifies as one of our “B” flicks it is not the one we are taking a look at today.
I must confess The Substitute 2-4 are some of my favorite “B” movies of all time. In fact one could even call them “C” movies if you so desired. The Substitutes 2 to 4 all star Treat Williams as, you guessed it, a mercenary who for one reason or another has to go undercover as a teacher in order to right some wrong. Williams, before the Substitute sequels, had the lead role in Prince of the City (1981), a film many consider to be on par with Raging Bull, Serpico and Taxi Driver. I guess that was the 1980’s, because in the 1990’s I think all of the Substitute sequels went straight to video and with good reason.
In The Substitute II-Schools Out, mercenary Karl Thomason (Treat Williams) arrives in Brooklyn to attend the funeral of his brother Randall, who was murdered while trying to stop a carjacking blamed on the “Brotherhood,” a vicious street gang. Thomason believes there is something more than a mere carjacking gone wrong and decides to go undercover as his brother’s replacement in a Brooklyn high school where his brother taught history i.e. The Substitute.
The B-movie really comes through in this film. The blood is decidedly exaggerated as it looks like the special FX men used ketchup packets when someone was shot. There is (of course) the token sex scene and the “Substitute” is well versed in combat as a mercenary decidedly does not decimate his opponents right away, instead he routinely has these modest encounters beating them down a notch every time. Without question this movie is so flawed it would make me crazy, but for some unknown reason I can watch and enjoy all of the Substitute sequels (which get worse as they progress). I guess we all have our soft spots for “B” or even “C” movies—what are you going to do? You just may get a laugh or two.
August 15, 2010 at 2:51 pm
I am curious as to why substitute 2 instead of the original, who if I am not mistaken had Tom Berringer a better actor.
Coming back to my yesterday’s post where I had debated an existensial question as to what constitutes a B grade movie and having slept on my own question overnight I think i have the answer nailed.
The answer, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder. If you feel its a B grade movie then it is no matter what the studio says it is.
Or another definition could be that you cant define it but you can tell when you see one.
As a rule you usually have a simple plan gone awry, there is lot of rain even though they are usually set in southern California and again quite inappropriately its always foggy. There are fewer CGIs and some really smart one liners.There has to be one twist at the end so you dont feel cheated.
Feel free to correct me.
August 15, 2010 at 7:05 pm
I think you are right in that a “B” movie, like Justice Potter Stewart said in his famous Supreme Court decision about pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Why don’t I like the original Substitute? Probably because it was heavily promoted by the studio’s and moreover for me it was the three subsequent movies starring Treat Williams that hooked me. I’ve liked Williams since his fantastic performance in Prince of the City which I think will be the movie reviewed after the “B” movie run we are in now.
August 15, 2010 at 11:58 pm
Well I haven’t seen any of the Substitute movies so I can’t comment on them, but I can back you up and say that Treat Williams is a great B-Movie actor. He’s great in Dead Heat with Joe Piscopo if you’ve never seen that one.
August 16, 2010 at 11:11 pm
No I never saw Dead Heat but I will get it tonight and what the hell happened to Joe Piscopo? He sort of fell off of the earth after his stint on SNL. Yeah Treat can carry any B-movie, but I was thinking of reviewing Prince of The City–definitely an “A” movie (perhaps his only one).
Have not seen any of the Substitutes? Skip number one and go right for the sequels.
August 17, 2010 at 8:57 pm
Haven’t seen Prince of the City. Treat was in Hollywood Ending, the Woody Allen movie, and did a good job in it. I remember being surprised when he was cast for it.
Yeah, I have no idea what happened to Piscopo.
August 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm
Yeah, this movie is okay, but I notice you didn’t give it a rose or even a rosebud. I guess that’s what makes it a B movie…