Monday, 3 February 2014

The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All


Directed by: Robert Radler
Screenplay: Roy Frumkes & Rocco Simonelli
Starring: Treat Williams, Rebecca Staab, James Black & Claudia Christian

Treat Williams returns to The Substitute franchise (originally kicked off by Tom Berenger) for the second sequel Winner Takes All (after he starred in first sequel, School’s Out) and it’s much the same again (solider/mercenary Williams goes undercover at another school to wipe out some form of corruption with guns and fists) but made enjoyable by the ever reliable Williams and some violent edged action. This time Williams is playing substitute at a school where the jocks are using illegal steroids and getting violent as a result. He’s covering for a former solider buddy’s daughter (Staab) who was violently attacked by the steroid taking sports stars. It seems the steroids are being supplied by a local mob boss and his squad of goons, who have illegal interests in the area, and so Williams decides it’s time to bring in his own team (including the lovely Claudia Christian) and dish out some justice with some high impact fights, explosions and even (bizarrely) a wet t-shirt contest!

This low budget threequel is all kinds of barmy action fun. Sometimes oddly all over the place in tone (the aforementioned wet t-shirt contest, Williams firing off one liners) and other times bordering on violent exploitation (severed arms, vicious beatings, again: the wet t-shirt competition) and then other times deadly serious (the opening news footage of real war combat, the prologue were Williams’ buddy meets a horrible death), Winner Takes All certainly tries to cover all bases. There’s a somewhat serious subject matter (abuse of steroids), some brutal action (a wicked fight around a pool where Williams’ takes out three goons) and a good dose of nudity (yep the wet t-shirt contest and two random nude models running around in the climactic action scene!!): so yeah, pretty much something for everyone. 

The original The Substitute is a good solid action thriller and while Williams is a fine replacement for Berenger the sequels just aren’t quite as good, perhaps due to the same formula being rehashed several times over. However, thanks to Williams, some assured direction by Best of the Best director Robert Radler and the addition of Claudia Christian (looking like she’s having a ton of fun as a tough talking, high-kicking mercenary) Winner Takes All provides a breezy, though sometimes hard-hitting, 90 minutes of action entertainment. There are some nicely done fight scenes (choreographed by Simon Rhee, Best of the Best 1-4) and it all ends in (where else?) a warehouse with a big shoot-out, some violent deaths and explosions. For high school set action hi-jinks where the teachers dish out justice with machine guns and their military training The Substitute series still delivers.

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