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The 100




187
(1997)
Reviewed by Ned Daigle
Rating: 3 Beans

irector Kevin Reynolds just needs to stop. After his awful films "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves", "Rapa Nui" and "Waterworld", it's quite mind-boggling that he would be allowed to direct again. But, alas, here he is again. And he still hasn't learned from his past mistakes.

Reynolds latest excursion is "187", which is essentially a plea to kids to quit beating up on their teachers. What could have been an entertaining, tough, urban drama is reduced to highly pretentious goop. In fact, the confusing and badly written grand finale, followed by a final scene that shamelessly attempts to "make a statement" while trying to illicit tears from the audience, is beyond forgiving.

"187" tells the story of Trevor Garfield (Samuel L. Jackson) a science teacher who, at the beginning of the film, is stabbed by a student he is failing. Jump to 15 months later and Garfield moves to L.A. where he becomes a substitute in a poor high school and is immediately threatened by the local banditos led by the evil Cesar (played by Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez, no kidding, that's his name). Scene after scene is a depiction of a battle of wills between Garfield and the thugs, until everything culminates into an inevitable violent finale.

Does any of this sound familiar? This story is a virtual carbon copy of "Class of 1984" a cult fave starring Perry King as a teacher who battles a group of outcasts in an inner city high school. "Class of 1984" was a gritty movie that knew that it was basically an exploitive revenge flick and, therefore, didn't take itself so seriously, however "187" makes the mistake that it should be seen as a powerful, meaningful statement of today's society. Please. No amount of arch, lofty speeches can possibly mask the fact that this is just a tired retread of every bad "Death Wish" knockoff ever made. It's the kind of retread where once an animal is shown, you know at some point that animal will be slaughtered by the baddies.

This is the kind of movie where you wait for the "good parts". You know, the scenes where we get to see Garfield kick some gangsta ass. Unfortunately all of it happens off screen, and the script leaves his guilt infuriatingly ambiguous.

The violent conclusion is particularly loathsome. Evil Cesar decides that the teacher must die and breaks into Garfield's home, and, for some reason, instead of killing him, subjects him to a game of Russian Roulette (a la "The Deer Hunter"). Which is just an opportunity for Garfield to give yet another speech to try and "reach" his captors. I won't say what happens here, but let's just say it's in equal measures implausible, irritating, and infuriating.

Kevin Reynolds must share the blame for this movie's failure with the writer, Scott Yagemann. Before the end credits roll, a title card comes up to say that "This film was written by a teacher". Ooooh, I guess it's all so much more meaningful and deep than I thought. But if you ask me, he should get an "F" for plagiarism.






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