(US - 1985)
Directed by Fritz Kiersch. Written by Jette Rinck. Cast: James Spader, Kim Richards, Paul Mones, Matt Clark, Claudette Nevins, Olivia Barash, Robert Downey Jr., Panchito Gomez, Michael Wyle, Catya Sassoon, Frank McCarthy, Art Evans, Herb Mitchell, Bill Beyers, Lou Fant, Jim Carroll, Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. (R, 112 mins)
For a hot minute from 1986 to 1987 at the tail end of the original Brat Pack era, James Spader established himself as the next William Zabka, whose performances in THE KARATE KID, JUST ONE OF THE GUYS, and BACK TO SCHOOL were instrumental in establishing the template for every smug, bullying '80s teen movie douchebag who came down the pike. Spader's supporting turns in PRETTY IN PINK and LESS THAN ZERO carried on the Zabka tradition but with a more cerebral bent. Where Zabka mastered the portrayal of the asshole jock bully, Spader's prickiness possessed an intelligence and a jaded, erudite malevolence that bordered on sociopathy. Spader ran with that a few years later in Steven Soderbergh's 1989 landmark indie SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE and again in David Cronenberg's controversial 1997 film CRASH. Essentially a career journeyman with an occasional STARGATE blockbuster to his credit, Spader is known more these days for his TV work, which began in 2003 with a stint on THE PRACTICE that was spun off into BOSTON LEGAL, teaming him with William Shatner. Like Shatner, Spader is completely aware of his eccentric "James Spader" persona and is in on the joke, whether it was his brief turn as fill-in Dunder-Mifflin branch manager Robert California on THE OFFICE or in his most steady "James Spader" role yet, the sardonic ex-black ops agent Raymond "Red" Reddington on THE BLACKLIST, soon to be in its seventh season on NBC.
SAVAGE STREETS, and 1986's 3:15 and DANGEROUSLY CLOSE to name a few. But it quickly stakes its claim as the weirdest of the bunch, with Spader's character introduced shouting "Be Bop a Lula!" as he rides his ten-speed through a mugging, and defuses the situation in an impromptu fashion by shaking a can of soda and spraying it at some punks rolling a guy at a Reseda bus stop. Five minutes into TUFF TURF, and it's already difficult to tell if it's a serious movie and even after watching it, the question remains. Spader is Morgan Hiller, a Connecticut country club preppy who recently relocated to a blue collar area of L.A. after his dad (veteran character actor Matt Clark) lost everything back east when his business collapsed. With his dad driving a cab while studying for the California real estate exam and his mom (Claudette Nevins) riding his ass because he lacks the ambition of his successful toolbag of an older brother Brian (Bill Beyers), the last thing Morgan needs is trouble, but he gets it the next morning on the first day of school, when the punks from the mugging, led by Nick (29-year-old Paul Mones) and his girlfriend Franky (former child actress, '70s Disney star, Paris Hilton aunt, and future REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS reality TV personality Kim Richards), recognize him and see he's the new kid. Morgan keeps tangling with Nick and his goons, who destroy his bike and leave a dead rat in his locker, but he finds a buddy in smartass goofball Jimmy (a pre-fame Robert Downey Jr.) and gradually woos Franky from the vicious clutches of the possessive Nick, which only makes things worse.
POOTIE TANG (2001). See what I mean? Everything about TUFF TURF is just weird.
|TUFF TURF opening in Toledo, OH on 3/1/1985|