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.