TEACHERS (1984)

Directed By: Arthur Hiller
Written By: W.R. McKinney
Cinematography: David M. Walsh 
Editor: Don Zimmerman 

Cast: Nick Nolte, Jobeth Williams, Judd Hirsch, Ralph Macchio, Allen Garfield, Lee Grant, Richard Mulligan, Laura Dern, Crispin Glover, Morgan Freeman, Steven Hill, William Schallert, Mary Alice, Anthony Heald Virginia Capers, Royal Dani, Art Metrano 

A teacher overcomes his frustration in a high-school full of flunkies. As he attempts to educate his students, he attempts to help them gets him into trouble with the school board, which only adds to his problems. With the support of his students, he beats the school board and his frustration.


This film is in the same vein as AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. Where it is a darkly satirical look at a system that wasn’t working. For that film, it was legal and the justice/court system. In this case public high school and just how dangerous it was for students and faculty. As you had kids who were uninterested and unmotivated. Teachers who were burnt out, scared, or don’t care and the unions and powers that be whose hands are tied or want them to do the best that they can with what they have yet offer no hope.

Now, while this film isn’t as sharp or necessarily as heavy as that film they do share a kinship. As well as with films like THE HOSPITAL and NETWORK (both of those written by Paddy Chayefsky) these are meant to be more ensemble films with a central figure in the lead who is riding on both sides until the end. Where they finally have to show where they stand and make some kind of difference even if ultimately lose.

This film is interesting as it can be funny. Especially pinpointing Richard Mulligan’s character, a teacher who gets into character to inspire his students and actually gets through to them. Before finding out he is an escaped mental patient.

What keeps the film lively is that one minute it can be gritty and dealt with seriously but then the next goes for a laugh that is more character-based comedy and less broad. 

Though there are many characters this film mainly focuses on Nick Nolte who is burnt out it actually seems to be the rare teacher who gives a damn. Though he wants to be a team player he has a reckless rebelliousness to him.

This role fits note to a The cuts an imposing figure but comes off quite intellectual. He is rugged throughout and tries his best but whenever he seems to be getting somewhere he has another bureaucratic door slammed in his face. This is a vintage performance from him where he is unpredictable but lively throughout. 

Nick Nolte is a famous actor. For me, he is an actor I discovered while looking for somebody else. He usually starred or Co-Starred in movies I initially watched for some other actor who was in the film for instance 48 HOURS I watched for Eddie Murphy and he co-Starred in it. I watched DOWN & OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS for Bette Midler he Co-Starred in it. I watched this film initially to see Ralph Macchio. He made this before KARATE KID, but I discovered it after he starred in that film.

The film has a recognizable cast. That looking back is impressive and all out to good use. The town of the film does become more serious after the death of a character.

Watching the film these days barely raises an eyebrow. But I remember when first seeing it felt scandalous like an expose almost. As it seems to try to shine a light on the problems of the then-current education system. Some of those problems still exist and some have gotten worse. It seems to try to take a bite but there is so much to chew it can only get to a certain amount of pieces presented.

This is a film that is worth watching to see how a film can make a point and bring up issues. By being gritty but also offering a light touch to round out and let the audience off somewhat. 

Grade: B

KISS OF DEATH (1995)

Directed By: Barbet Schroeder
Written By: Richard Price
Based on the Original Screenplay “KISS OF DEATH” By: Ben Hecht & Charles Lederer
Based on a story By Eleazar Lipsky
Cinematography: Luciano Tovolli
Editor: Lee Percy

Cast: David Caruso, Nicolas Cage, Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames, Stanley Tucci, Helen Hunt, Michael Rapaport, Kathryn Erbe, Jay O. Sanders, Hope Davis, Anthony Heald, Philip Baker Hall, Paul Calderon, Anne Meara, John Costelloe 

A reformed convict goes undercover with the help of an angry detective to ensnare a psychotic mobster.


When I saw the trailer I knew I had to see this film as soon as possible. I had seen it on the show COMING ATTRACTIONS on the E! Channel when it used to be more devoted to film and film lovers. Not so much gossip. This trailer had me hypnotized so much I taped it and would watch it over and over again. Keep in mind this was before the internet. 

One of my favorite trailers at the time. The cast was seductive so I ended up watching it on opening weekend. 

I know this is a remake but i haven’t seen the original. Which unknown was noteworthy for Richard Widmark’s giggling hitman. There are no signs of that here. Even though Nicolas Cage steals the show as the villain here. Though that might be due to the script trying to make him come off as memorable as Richard Widmark.

This film is supposed to be a thriller though most of the time plays like a dark comedy. One that is central To New York’s character types. Even as it has More thriller elements and framework. 

Everybody seems to speak way too loudly throughout and every sentence or word seems to end and be with an exclamation point. 

This is a modern remake for the 1990’s with what would end up being an all-star cast in the middle of their careers and some just been naming their hot streaks. 

The film seems to borrow part of the cast of PULP FICTION. As the dialogue also tries to be loose and have criminals have odd yet funny conversations emblematic of that  film. It even has a few actors from that movie in it’s cast but it has an overall style of cool. A violent cool with bits of dark comedy thrown in. Where it again always feels like the characters are playing types more than real human beings for the most part.

This movie was supposed to help make a movie star out of David Caruso after being a lifelong character actor and being on a hit Television show. Which pulled him to fame and leaving that show after two seasons to be a movie star. Here is a role he was used to just not being at the center of attention.

Nicolas Cage here is off-kilter as always. Muscle bound and hilarious. As he plays an over the top mobster’s son who Caruso is trying to take down or more like the cops are forcing him to. He is murderous yet childlike at instances 

In the end the most despicable character and true villain of the film is Michael Rappaport who causes all this trouble and is taken down early and quickly.

While the film tries to feel realistic. You are always aware that it is a production. As it even feels thoroughly always like cinema. Never like any kind of reality or relatable. 

For all the violence and tough talk by the end it seems a little too cut and dry. Where it ends up feeling lightweight by the end. No matter how far it has taken us. 

GRADE: B-