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1 item from 1997

Film review: '187'

28 July 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

"The Blackboard Jungle" is now even scarier: One in nine teachers has been attacked in school, and nearly 3 million thefts and violent crimes occur in our high schools every year.

"187", nomenclature for Murder 1, is a stirring and vividly horrifying depiction of the status of our big-city schools. Starring Samuel L. Jackson as an idealistic teacher who has been pushed beyond his capacity for tolerance, this Warner Bros. release will appeal to select-site audiences who will appreciate its savvy, sociological insights.

In this grim saga, Jackson stars as Trevor Garfield, a Brooklyn high school teacher who is savagely stabbed by a gang-banger for giving him a failing grade. Enduring a painful recuperation, Garfield decides a change of venue will improve his outlook; unfortunately, he selects North Hollywood and begins a stint at a public school whose joy for learning is, to say the least, in the toilet. Attitude, intimidation and hostility are his daily reaction from his defeatist-minded students, a throng of nitwits who have, not surprisingly, been brought up in single-parent environments.

Scripted by a former substitute teacher (Scott Yageman), "187" is a searing, insider depiction of the hellholes that are modern urban schools. Yageman's writing is sharp and, on the whole, sympathetic to the kids who are the victims of dysfunctional families and societal hideousness.

No saccharine generic polemic in the manner of "Dangerous Minds" and others of its dewy ilk, "187" is a taut, intelligent portrait of the horrors of today's schools. To its credit, the film does not romanticize the "underprivileged" youth who wreak these atrocities on well-meaning teachers.

As the generous but wounded teacher, Jackson is superb, conveying integrity with guts in a performance that exudes a caring individual. As his burned-out counterpart, John Heard is convincing as a teacher who has endured the limits of mental and physical aggravation and can no longer tolerate the stress. In addition, Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez is truly terrifying as a classroom bully.

Highest praise to Kevin Reynolds for the tight telling and compassionate viewpoint: The "Waterworld" director is able to concentrate this time out on aesthetics rather than logistics. Technically, "187" is a gem: Ericson Core's dynamics framings, coupled with Chris Douridas' edgy music, put "187" at the head of its technical class.


Warner Bros.

An Icon production

A Kevin Reynolds Film

Producers: Bruce Davey, Strephen McEveety

Director Kevin Reynolds

Screenwriter Scott Yageman

Director of photography Ericson Core

Production designer Stephen Storer

Editor Stephen Semel

Music supervisor Chris Douridas

Costume designer Darryle Johnson



Trevor Garfield Samuel L. Jackson

Dave Childress John Heard

Ellen Henry Kelly Rowan

Cesar Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez

Rita Karina Arroyave

Stevie Middleton Jonah Rooney

Benny Chacon Lobo Sebastian

Running time -- 117 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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