Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Substitute 3: Winner Takes All, The - 2/5

Is the Substitute franchise strong enough to warrant a third entry? No, not really but I can't help myself to enroll in any class that has Treat Williams listed as the instructor. Even if the film isn't going to be good, it's guaranteed to have some moments to bring a smile across this film buffs face. That's a good thing since I am addicted to sequels and have to see any follow-up to a film that I even remotely liked.

The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All opens a little different than rest of the franchise. Instead of having the substitute title sprawl across a chalk board it now says the title over a bunch of video war footage and then we are shown Treat Williams captured in prison being tortured in the Middle East. He kills his partner, who is paralyzed from the neck down, in order to break out. Before he does he promises to make amends for him with his daughter. Back in the states we are introduced to his daughter who is a college English professor. Upon meeting with her Williams has to defend her from a bunch of high strung steroid using football players (what timing Treat has!). She ends up being attacked later by a football player due to the fact a group of them are going to fail her class. Williams, being the good Samaritan mercenary he is, gets the help of a new group of mercenary friends to go undercover in the school to uncover a complicated ring of steroid use that even has links to a mafia family!

The series is really starting to show it's thin blood with this entry as the undercover mercenary school teacher is starting to get old. Original writers Roy Frumkes and Rocco Simonelli bring in new mercenary friends to help Treat Williams out in order to liven up the film a bit and they also change the environment a bit from the gang ridden high school into a high class college. Even with these changes the film still acts tired, like it's struggling to show anything new.

Treat Williams is still likable as the lethal yet tongue-in-cheek funny mercenary turned substitute but the rest of the cast is filled with stock B-movie direct-to-video actors. The worst actors are definitely the college football players as mixed with by-the-numbers writing they make very silly, unrealistic jocks that act more like immature high school students. This entry also suffers from what looks like the lowest budget of the franchise so far and the film's look reeks of "DTV" camera work. This sequel, like the previous films, can be overly preachy again especially about how "steroids are bad for you." I'm sorry but steroid abuse doesn't strike the same heart chord as troubled youth in gangs.

The Substitute 3 isn't completely worthless and it's worth a look for people that liked the first two films but it's nothing new and the franchise is definitely on its last leg. The franchise marched on and Treat Williams would take the job as "the substitute" one last time in the next entry The Substitute: Failure is Not an Option.

Bonus Rant: The only way to get this film on DVD is in a double feature with the first Substitute film. What the hell? Why not make it a double feature with Substitute 2? That would make more sense to package it with another sequel. Damn Lionsgate can't get anything right. Even the new quadruple feature set I have still has Substitute 3 packaged on the same disc as the original.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

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