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The Substitute (1996)

R  |   |  Action, Crime, Drama  |  19 April 1996 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.8/10 from 8,444 users  
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After a botched mission in Cuba, professional mercenary Shale and his crew Joey Six, Hollan, Rem, and Wellman head home to Miami, Florida, where Shale is reunited with his fiance Jane ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Joey Six
Ana Azcuy ...
TV Announcer
Mr. Darrell Sherman
Jerome Brown
Janus Showreel Narrator
Matt Wolfson


After a botched mission in Cuba, professional mercenary Shale and his crew Joey Six, Hollan, Rem, and Wellman head home to Miami, Florida, where Shale is reunited with his fiance Jane Hetzko, who is a history teacher at Columbus High School in Miami. Some of Jane's students happen to be members of a street gang known as the "Kings of Destruction" (KOD), led by Juan Lacas, who has been terrorizing Jane. After Jane's kneecap is broken by a big seminole named Bull, she tells Shale that she believes Lacas ordered the attack, so Shale goes undercover as Jane's substitute, and initially, Jane has no idea that Shale is doing this. At the school, Shale meets principal Claude Rolle, librarian Hannah Dillon, and english and drama teacher Darrell Sherman. It turns out that Lacas is one of Jane's students. As Shale investigates the attack on Jane, he discovers that drugs are being circulated into the school. Shale even investigates local drug kingpin Johnny Glades, who may or may not have someone... Written by Todd Baldridge

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The most dangerous thing about school used to be the students. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence, language and brief nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

19 April 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El sustituto  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$40,167 (USA) (19 July 1996)


$14,752,141 (USA) (2 August 1996)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The movie was shot during the summer months and kids enrolled in summer classes were extras on the film. Free Papa John's pizza was served to anyone who would stay after school. See more »


When Shale meets the crew at the pistol range, Hollen (William Forsythe) is wearing a shoulder holster that has two thin straps and two wide straps; he is wearing the holster upside down, with the wide straps under his arms. This holster is designed to be worn with the wider straps over the top of the shoulders to spread out the weight and pressure. See more »


Shale: Tilt those little puppies over here, baby.
See more »


References Scum (1979) See more »


Written by Mack 10 (as D. Rollison)
Performed by Mack 10
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Tom Berenger's fine performance in "The Substitute" makes the movie worth watching
24 June 2004 | by (brooklyn NY) – See all my reviews

****SPOILERS**** "The Substitute" starts off like a solid inner city drama about violence in a high school in Miami with teacher Jane Hetzko, Diane Venora, after being threatened by one of the schools violent thugs Juan Laucas, Marc Anthony, goes to the schools principal Claude Rolle, Ernie Hudson, for help. Only to be told that there's nothing that he can do, how many times have we heard that before. After having it out again with the same Laucas and his gang as she was going home Jane is later attacked while she was jogging by the beach and was crippled with a smashed kneecap.

Jane's boyfriend Shale, Tom Berenger, who happened to be an unemployed mercenary looking for work got a job at the school, in fact the very same class, that Jane worked at as a substitute teacher after a friend of his working in the Miami record office falsified a background check for Shale as a licensed teacher. Shale, calling himself Mr. James Smith, after breaking a number of fingers and wrists got the disruptive students in line in no time at all.

The movie starts to take a turn when Shale/Mr.Smith notices that something just isn't right about the school with students driving around with $50,000.00 BMW's and wearing as much as $100,000.00 gold watches, including principal Rolle. That it's obvious to Shale/Mr.Smith that there's more going on in the school then just readin' ritin' and rithmetic.

Implausible action drama that does have it's moments as Tom Berenger battles school thugs and drugs pushers. With the high school principal Rolle being the #1 drug dealer getting his drug supply from a brutal Indian drug gang, The Glades mob. With the drugs being distributed by Rolle's personal "Deans List" the gang that runs and terrorizes the school, Columbia High, the "Kings of Destruction" or K.O.D. Tom Berenger is quite good as the Soldier of Fortune, Shale, turned concerned citizen and high school teacher,

Mr. Smith, who with the help of his mercenary friends cleans up the school and smashes the K.O.D gang and Glades drug mob in the process just for good measures. Action-packed movie that looks more like a Steven Seagel or Burce Willis slam-bang action flick then a film about school violence like "Blackboard Jungle".

Unlike in most of these type of action movies with Seagal & Willis, especially Seagal, where the hero completely overpowers his opposition with very little or almost no damage to himself the hero in "the Substitute", Mr.Smith/Shale, takes a lot more then he dishes out from his opponents. Which makes him more human and sympathetic to the movies audience who can easily identify with him.

Shale/Smith is also very sweet with his girlfriend Jane and does show genuine concern for his students as well as his co-workers in the school so that even with the somewhat unbelievable plot Tom Berenger's acting does make you forget just how ridicules the movie really is. Diane Venora is effective as Berenger's girlfriend as well as Marc Anthony as Juan Laucas the K.O.D gang leader. Ernie Hudson as the corrupt school principal and former corrupt cop Rolle played it a little to much and it made you wonder how he's been getting away with his drug dealing operations. Rolle doesn't seem to be too concerned if anyone knows about them to the point where he has over a hundred kilos of coke hidden in the schools boiler room. He also uses the K.O.D to knock off anyone who's a threat to his drug operation in his high school like when he tried to knock off Shale/Mr.Smith, without success, without any fear of the local police. In regards to his drug dealing Rolle doesn't at all seem to care or be afraid of an FBI or federal investigation.

The final shot-out in the school with Shale and his mercenary friends with the Glade mob & K.O.D gang was as good as anything that you would see in this type of movie. With Shale's on and off again mercenary friend and buddy Hollan, William Forsythe, as a stand out as he more then makes up for all the trouble that he caused Shale all throughout the movie.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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