Produced by Matthew Helderman, Zach Kamen
Written and Directed by Adam Dick
Starring David Dastmalchian, Kevin Pollak,
John Hoogenakker, Cedric Young, Karin Anglin,
Ilyssa Fradin, Curtis Edward Jackson
Writer/director Adam Dick’s Teacher is a not-entirely-successful drama that takes on the topical subject of high school bullying.
David Dastmalchian (the Ant-Man films, Relaxer) is solid as the titular character, James Lewis, a bitter, recently divorced high school English teacher with anger issues.
He has a clear soft spot for students Preston and Daniela, and even nudges Preston to pursue Daniela romantically. Lewis also has a visible distaste for another student, fortunate son and all-around a-hole, Tim Cooper, who bullies Preston and Daniela on what seems to be a daily basis.
The bullying – and Lewis’ rage – escalates, and the screws are tightened, heading to a violent climax.
Teacher does a fine job of ratcheting up the tension, as well as the viewers’ ire at the cruelty and injustice on display.
Dastmalchian is an ideal choice for the lead, straddling the line between seeker of justice and unhinged vigilante, and Pollak is surprisingly effective at being a serious threat.
The movie at times feels very similar to the 2008 film Red, with Brian Cox seeking retribution for the killing of his beloved dog at the hands of a sociopathic rich kid.
Both Red and Teacher never quite gel, and don’t really find a way to create a satisfying hybrid of social issue film and revenge drama.
Teacher does take some interesting turns in the home stretch, but unfortunately I didn’t buy them. In fact, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, as I couldn’t tell if what was happening was a ruse or the real thing, and I don’t think that was Dick’s intention.
Still, the film has its heart in the right place, and is worth seeing for the performances and its handful of effective scenes.
And while the third act felt a bit artificial and hollow to me, it may very well spark animated debate with others.
So while I didn’t love – or especially like – Teacher, I still recommend it to somewhat adventurous viewers. I’m mixing metaphors, but while Teacher doesn’t hit the bullseye, it goes down swinging.
Teacher is now available on DVD and On Demand.