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187 (March 6/99)

In 187, Samuel L. Jackson stars as a teacher in the inner city. As the movie opens, he's been attacked by one of his former students and left for dead. Cut to several months later, he's recuperated and ready to start teaching again. He's transfered to an even more dangerous high school, but this does not faze Jackson. No, it does not faze him because he is going to Change the System. He's an idealist. And the fact that all his pupils wield weapons of some kind doesn't bother him. He believes that there is some good in everyone, even if they stab you 11 times in the back with a knife.

Pardon my facetious tone, but the first half of 187 is so cliched, so over-wrought that one can't help but be a little cynical about it. It takes virtually every element generally found in films of this calibre (Dangerous Minds and Stand and Deliver being the most prominent examples). Fortunately, after that rather unoriginal beginning, the film takes an unexpected turn that quite frankly I hadn't predicted. Not to give too much away, Jackson eventually tires of all the abuse and begins to fight back.In other films of this type, the hero-teacher ends up "saving" the bad kids and everyone's happy. Not so in 187. Ol' Sammy completely loses his cool after a certain point and starts kicking some serious ass.

I appreciated that aspect of 187. Just when I thought I had the whole story figured out, the screenwriter throws a rather large spanner in the works. Predictability is a big problems with most movies these days, so it was nice to have a movie that kept me guessing as to what would happen next and also as to how the film would end. Another nice touch is the directing by Kevin Reynolds. He's shot the film in mostly brown colours, which only adds to the feeling of desperation Jackson's character is experiencing. I also liked how, in one moment of rage, the camera following Jackson began shaking. I'd never seen anything like that, and in this age of Michael Bay-type of nonsensical camera pyrotechnics, it was nice to see a director use his camera as an instrument to further display the emotions of his characters, rather than as a tool to "excite" the audience.

187, much like the Death Wish series, got a little carried away as it progressed, but nevertheless, it's an entertaining look at how deeply violence can affect a regular person.

out of