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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Scrappy Days

The Principal (1987) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Rick Latimer (James Belushi) is drinking with his friends Bobby, Folly & Gus at their favorite watering hole, Johnny B. Goode's, when in walks his ex (“It's Kimberly”)—they've been divorced three months now. She's being escorted by her divorce lawyer, and when Rick does the math, he figures the two of them were dating while she was still married to him. “That's not right!” he says. In a rage he leaps over the bar, grabs a trophy base­ball bat from the display wall, and chases the lawyer out into the parking lot where he trashes the poor sap's nice car. I suppose Rick figured he'd already paid for the damage.

Let's compare that to an excerpt from a Stuart MacBride novel in which a woman comes home to find her husband's mistress's car parked outside and finds in the garage: (51–2, 82–3)

old sporting equipment from her university days – back when she used to have dreams! Before she buried them away, out here in suburbia, with the domestic detritus of a marriage that had died years ago, leaving nothing but this rotting corpse behind.

She hauled a hockey stick from the rack of sports kit. Old and dusty and solid. Perfect.

Lorna grabbed the hockey stick …, turned, and stomped … across the road to the brand-new Mini Cooper, with its shiny red body and its jaunty white roof. She swung the stick like a sledge­hammer, right into the wind­screen, sending cracks spidering out from the centre as the impact juddered up her arm and the car alarm screeched. Hazard lights flashing as she battered the hockey stick into the glass again. One more go and the whole wind­screen sagged inwards.

Good enough.

Brian shrugged. ‘Steph was here yesterday afternoon. We were in the bedroom when her car alarm went off. Some­one had smashed the wind­screen and the garage door was lying wide open. It's … not like Lorna and me had a sex life of our own, is it? We don't even sleep in the same room any more!’

Logan put the glasses back on their shelf. ‘Her husband's having an affair; she's about to be suspended; she's on anti­depressants; she's sacrificed having a family for a career, but her career's going nowhere. … She's getting into fights…’

Rennie nodded. ‘Sounds like she had a proper, full-on, card-carrying meltdown.’

Lorna had to go through a proper background check before she purchased the hockey stick through the school hockey club: to wit, an examination of her academic record before she was admitted to University to make sure she didn't goof off in high school. Not so Rick and his new slugger; that was a private transfer from Johnny B. Goode's. No background check.

high schoolRick after spending a night in the clink, was in trouble with the Willoughby School Board where he taught high school. Their solution was to transfer him into an opening for Principal at the notorious Brandel “Brand X” High School full of hardened miscreants and permanent rejects from other schools. He lays down the law and attempts to fight fire with fire. In so doing he invites personal opposition from black gang leader Victor Duncan (Michael Wright) who wields a switchblade knife.

For the sake of this review, we are going to call it an assault weapon, an assault knife, as the spring mechanism is designed for instant deployment, ratcheting up conflict to blood letting, much in the same way we'd call a machine gun an assault rifle for its design to shed copious blood. That's unlike a table knife or a semiautomatic rifle giving one pause to think before a thrust or to pull the trigger once for each shot.

Victor would not have acquired his switchblade from any legitimate source as they are illegal—so are machine guns except by special permit. As the movie doesn't tell us, we'll just say it came from the black market, as did all those available drugs, or for that matter most guns used in crimes.

After a tense movie there's a final confrontation in which Victor pulls out a revolver and Rick tells him, “Some­body's cheating.” This is ironic as chief of security Jake Phillips (Louis Gossett Jr.) has been hammering away for Rick to consider what kind of place he's in and what he can expect of it. He can't expect the hoods out of some mis­begot­ten sense of fair play to fore­swear firearms just because the good guys have rules saying they them­selves can't have them. In Civics class the students were asked how the assassination of a minor functionary led to the awful World War I. It had to do with geo­politics. This is high school stuff. The movie opens up the door for us to contemplate the politics of gun regulation, but it doesn't itself go there.


royal flushDo you recall one of Kenny Rogers's songs concerning a chance meeting with “The Gambler” on a train, who offered the passenger this sage advice: “Every hand's a winner/ And Every hand's a loser”? The refrain of the song goes:

You've got to know when to hold 'em,
Know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run.

You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

This gambling man's wisdom is old as the hills and was passed on by a raconteur, Agur in Proverbs 30:1, whose four meta­phors offered the same life advice as did Rogers's Gambler. That we find in, (Prov. 30:29-31) “There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going: A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any; A greyhound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up.”

We have Agur's “lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any” and we have Rogers's “know[ing] when to hold 'em.” In our movie it behooves Rick to show up on the final day when Victor has been threatening his life, and Jake advises him to take a sick day.

We have Agur's “king, against whom there is no rising up,” and we have Rogers's “Know[ing] when to fold 'em” A king who knows when to give in to his subjects doesn't experience any uprising. Arturo Diego (Jacob Vargas) and the boys in metal shop, although they won't say who trashed El Principal's motor­cycle, agree to put it back together the way it was. They stream­line it until it looks really bad, although to be sure, it's only cosmetic, doesn't make it any more or less dangerous. Fact is it was the sedan, according to class discussion, that put the roaring into the roaring twenties for its opportunity for privacy and make­out sessions.

We have Agur's “he goat also” and we have Rogers's “Know[ing] when to walk away.” In the movie gentle teacher Hilary Orozco (Rae Dawn Chong) accepted a position in Connecticut to get away from the violence at Brandel, which she found overwhelming.

We have Agur's “greyhound” and Rogers's “Know[ing] when to run.” When White Zac (J.J. Cohen) in the deserted hall­ways threatened to rape Miss Orozco, she did well to run.

The gambler gave the advice:

You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

The tiff with Victor was just a skirmish. There will always be someone to replace him even if he's got rid of.

Production Values

” (1987) was directed by Christopher Cain. It was written by Frank Deese. It stars Jim Belushi, Louis Gossett Jr., and Rae Dawn Chong. The kids all look like they were cast from at least twenty-some­things. Belushi and Gossett have a congenial chemistry together. James Belushi played his part well. Wright is a convincing antagonist as he under­plays his bad boy part. Louis Gossett Jr. succeeds as the tough, black security man.

The film was rated R. It was filmed in Alameda, California, USA but didn't advertise its location except for the 1987 California color scheme on all the license plates. All of the school names were changed. The music supervisor was Jellybean.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“The Principal” was a quality B-movie befitting the 1980's. It has a white savior theme reminiscent of “Black­board Jungle” (1955.) The violence was credible but not over the top. The characters were likeable, some of the teachers lovable, and the chief villain despicable. We all like to bid good riddance to our high school days, never­the­less the brief return here entertains.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Predictable. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Overall movie rating: Three and a half stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture was cited from the King James Version, Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Print.

MacBride, Stuart. The Blood Road. London: HarperCollins, paper­back edition 2019. Print.

Rogers, Kenny. Songwriter Don Schlitz. “The Gambler.” Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Pub. LLC. Web.