Sunday, May 23, 2010

Substitute 2: School's Out, The - 2.5/5

Though I enjoyed The Substitute for what it was, I was still incredibly surprised to see it was followed by a sequel when I visited the local video store. The original just didn't seem like a strong enough story to warrant a sequel, not to mention a franchise. I went into this sequel not expecting much because a) it is direct-to-video and b) Tom Berenger did not return as our main substitute. Despite this I enjoy Treat Williams as an actor (especially in Dead Heat and Deep Rising) so I kept an open mind. All I have to say is for a direct-to-video B-movie sequel I actually had a pretty good time.

Here our film opens with a teacher getting gunned downed down in New York. Move on next to his funeral where our new mercenary Karl Thomasson (played by Treat Williams) meanders in and we find out he was the teacher's brother. He of course tries to make amends with his niece and gets the notion to enroll as the substitute teacher to find his brother's killers with the aid of his buddy Joey 6 (one of the surviving mercenaries from the original) . He in turn uncovers a chop shop operation headed by another teacher and violence ensues.

Like the original there is plenty of violence along with some well placed humor. Thanks to the tongue-in-cheek performance by Williams that I love, he pulls many of these humorous moments off nicely. His lesson on the history of the yo-yo especially got me to smile. Along with the humor Williams also pulls off the physical mercenary part well making him really a perfect fit for the role. He's funny and he can be lethal. The supporting cast is also nice considering this is a low-budget film. Perhaps the one role I had trouble accepting is B.D. Wong as the shop teacher. I guess I'm used to him as the homosexual psychologist on the TV show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and I had trouble accepting him in the role of the manly shop teacher. Despite this he is still a good actor.

The connection to the original film is flimsy at best with our only returning character being Joey 6 (now played by Angel David) who tells our new substitute that Jonathan Shale from the original has given up his mercenary ways and has begun to teach. Joey 6 doesn't even seem like the same character and he might as well have been left out of the plot completely. Perhaps the film would have benefitted more if Treat Williams played Tom Berenger's brother or just made it a completely different film about another mercenary turned substitute teacher with no connection.

Overall though I had a good time with this sequel as has the same mixture of violence and some sly humor. Credit for this can be given to writers Roy Frumkes and Rocco Simonelli for returning from the original. This sequel, like the original, can be a little preachy at times about how "gangs are bad" but overall this is a decent direct-to-video sequel.

Bonus Rant: The DVD I have from Lionsgate has 4 moments of poor encoding where digital blocks show up. Okay I understand a film called "The Substitute 2: School's Out" isn't going to be high art but COME ON! They also had shoddy encoding on their Knight Moves and Cutthroat Island discs as well. For a big name company they sure do put out some glitchy discs.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

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