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The Substitute 4: Failure is Not an Option

In The Substitute 4, Treat Williams takes his third stab at teacher/student ass-kicking as former Army Colonel and principled mercenary Karl Thomasson (not to be confused with John Shale, the retired Marine and principled mercenary played by Tom Berenger in the series' inaugural movie). This time around, Thomasson goes undercover as a history teacher at an exclusive military academy where a renegade colonel has established a cult-like neo-Nazi militia outfit. Rife with silliness, clichés, and afterschool-special pathos, this straight-to-video sequel has few marks in its favor, but one of which is crucial — Patrick Kilpatrick makes a strong villain, his subtle facial deformities used to good effect, adding a needed element of compelling menace. Williams, on the other hand, makes for an odd action hero, rarely showing any urgency or concern of detection, which is both refreshing and downright implausible. Nevertheless, Substitute 4: FINAO pretty much delivers what fans of the genre want: some grisly deaths, a few bare breasts, a handful of explosions (icluding one so awful it may outlaw low-budget CGI), and a ballroom dancing scene. Also with the worst of the ex-supermodel/uncharismatic actresses, Angie Everhart, and former Spike Lee-regular Bill Nunn in a stupid "is-he-wise-or-crazy-recluse" role. Artisan's DVD release of The Substitute 4 features an anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.77:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Includes a commentary by director Robert Radler and a couple of "deleted scenes" that actually are outakes from existing scenes — one of which features both Williams and Nunn contemptuously abiding by the stupidity of the whole project. Trailer, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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