One Eight Seven (1997)

by

Section 187 of the California Penal Code, which defines the crime of murder.

The number “187” is used by gangs throughout the United States as a synonym for murder

Trevor Garfield is an African American high school science teacher at Roosevelt Whitney High School, a high school in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. A gangster student to whom he had given a failing grade threatens to murder him, writing the number 187 (the police code for homicide) on every page of one of Garfield’s textbooks. The administration ignores the threat, and the thug ambushes Garfield in the hallway, stabbing him in the back and side abdominal area multiple times with a shiv

Fifteen months after surviving from the ordeal, Garfield, now a substitute teacher, has relocated to John Quincy Adams High School in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, but the trouble starts again when he becomes a substitute to a rowdy, unruly class of rejects, including a Chicano tag crew by the name of “Kappin’ Off Suckers” (K.O.S.). Their leader, Benito “Benny” Chacón, a menacing felon attending high school as a condition of probation, makes it clear to Garfield that there will be no mutual respect between them.

After Benny murders a rival tagger in cold blood, he inexplicably disappears, and Benny’s severely unstable tag partner, César, takes over as leader and class antagonist. The conflict between Garfield and the K.O.S. escalates with the killing of Jack, Ellen’s dog. César, after spraying cartoon graffiti depicting a dog with a “dead” face, is shot with a syringe filled with morphine attached to the end of an arrow. He passes out, and wakes up to find one of his fingers cut off. César later recovers the finger and it is reattached, though the letters “R U DUN” (“are you done?”) have been tattooed onto it as a warning.

A student Garfield has tutored, a Chicana by the name of Rita Martínez, faces continuing abuse from both the K.O.S. and Childress, and drops out. The school administration is hopelessly mired in bureaucracy and unable to intervene. After Benny is found dead in the Los Angeles River, apparently of a drug overdose, it becomes clear that Garfield has taken justice into his own hands, playing by the rules of the street in an intense contest with César and the K.O.S.

The K.O.S. plan to murder Garfield after they accuse him of killing Benny and amputating César’s finger. The conflict comes to a head at Garfield’s house, as the gang forces Garfield into a contest of Russian Roulette with César (who gets the idea from watching The Deer Hunter). The latter’s resolve is finally shaken, as Garfield gets through to him about the lost-cause lifestyle he has led, saying “Your whole way of life is bullshit. Macho is bullshit.”. Hesitating at his turn, César watches as Garfield, offering to take his turn for him, takes the revolver and shoots himself in the head. Driven by his personal sense of honor and ignoring the protests of his horrified friends, César insists on taking his rightful turn and ends up killing himself in the same manner as his teacher.

Trevor Garfield

César aka Cartoon – Russian Roulette

Later on graduation day, Rita, who returns and completes her studies along with former K.O.S. member Stevie, offers a tribute to Garfield by reading an essay about him at commencement. The essay incorporates the theme of the Pyrrhic victory, which Garfield had once explained to her in a tutoring session. The film ends on a somber note as Ellen, presumably disheartened at the incident, appears to leave the school (she throws her teaching certificate into a garbage bin).

– Russian Roulette Scene –

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6 Responses to “One Eight Seven (1997)”

  1. colddogsoup Says:

    Classic scene.

  2. Vincent Black Shadow Says:

    Amazing film havent seen it for years like Mr Soupster….. it used to pop up on channel 4 late at nigth but it has’nt showed it’s face for a while! also the soundtrack is of a good standard……

  3. Vincent Black Shadow Says:

    arghhh and that should be your next artistic flare up….. “Mr Soupster”

  4. Cold Dog Soup Says:

    Aye I might do a souperman dub somewhere.

  5. Vincent Black Shadow Says:

    with a Blue and Red fill? haha now you are talking!

  6. Fiona Says:

    Its like you learn my mind! You appear to grasp so much about
    this, like you wrote the ebook in it or something.
    I think that you can do with a few % to pressure the message home a bit,
    but other than that, this is excellent blog.
    A fantastic read. I’ll certainly be back.

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