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In the U.S., 187 is police code for homicide. Street gangs have incorporated the term into their own code; it means You're dead. When teacher Trevor Garfield (Samuel L. Jackson) sees 187 scrawled throughout the pages of his teaching text, his being stabbed in the hallway of his Brooklyn high school is a foregone conclusion. When we next see him, 18 months later, he's living in South Central Los Angeles and working as a supply teacher, and his spark is gone. But those three troublesome digits are not.

"Written by a teacher, an angry teacher, 187 is compelling as drama, important as social soul searching (especially but not only in America). However, the film skirts close to moral dilemmas that were hotly debated in A Time To Kill, namely the whiff of justifiable murder. While 187 does not appear to condone the act, there is a feeling that it would like us to. The premise that a teacher can be pushed too far and turned bad himself is a strong one, especially in a society where going to school is fast becoming a death-defying business. The film suggests that there are intractably menacing, violent students in their late teens who, having failed to find any role or meaning in "normal" society, are at best a nuisance to others, at worst a real danger. These are usually kids from poor and broken homes, some are struggling to speak English let alone learn science, and the system simply turns its back. In this area, the film is sure of its ground. When tackling the slippery question of how one teacher responds, the film barely manages to disguise its vigilante attitude, and no matter how sympathetic we are to this poor, lonely, traumatised and ultimately decent man - demented by his commendable vocation - we canít allow ourselves to accept his solution. In the end, he seems to make an impression on a trio of maniacal students, but not for the right reasons, and at enormous cost. And perhaps thatís the one hanging question the film did not - and can not - answer: at what cost can we make a difference for the better? It is a gripping, downbeat film, but Samuel L. Jackson and his supporting cast are ferociously good. "
Andrew L. Urban

"Here we ago again, minority gangs, kids who are anti-authoritarian, rap music is their symbol, and the teacher trying to make a difference. The difference, in this ludicrous film, is that teacher Trevor Garfield had been watching those Death Wish movies. As an audience, you are expected to believe that this man with such religious convictions who still has a passion for teaching, albeit a subdued passion, would go around ripping the finger off a crazed student and killing another. You are asked to believe, in one of the many infantile moments in this film, that an intelligent teacher would tutor, at his home, a pretty Hispanic student, while she takes her clothes off for him. "I just wanted to thank you," she says. One is expected to believe that in an age of civil libertarianism, a teacher would be allowed to videotape his class after accusing one of its members of stealing his watch. And the list goes on. The relationship between the committed teacher and a student can result in creating a memorable film, as in Stand and Deliver or Dead Poet's Society. 187 is a deeply dangerous and false film, a superficial and ugly account of a real problem in urban American society. Samuel Jackson is usually such a haunting presence on screen, but here he delivers a flat, one-note and uninspiring performance. Directed with glaring pretentiousness by Kevin Reynolds, it is only at the very conclusion of 187 is there evidence of what could have been. But that's all too little too late, in one of the most futile and incredible films to emerge this year."
Paul Fischer

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187 (R)

CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, John Heard, Kelly Rowan, Clifton Gonzalex Gonzalez, Tony Plana, Karina Arroyave, Lobo Sebastian, Jack Kehler, Jonah Rooney, Demetrius Navarro

DIRECTOR: Kevin Reynolds

PRODUCER: Bruce Davey, Stephen McEveety

SCRIPT: Scott Yagemann


EDITOR: Stephen Seme

MUSIC: Chris Douridas


RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 20, 1997

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