Thursday, October 27, 2016

5 things to love about Tuff Turf (1985)

What’s it about:
James Spader plays Morgan Hiller, a new kid at an inner city school. He falls foul of a rough gang of students led by Nick (Paul Mones) first by foiling a mugging and later by romantically pursuing Nick’s girlfriend Frankie (Kim Richards). Basically, it’s like a John Hughes movie gone bad! The tone of the film is all over the place but that’s part of what makes it so enjoyable.

5 things to love:
1 I think the biggest thing I took away from this film is how awesome the Jim Carroll Band are. They use three tracks from Carroll’s 1980 album Catholic Boy – ‘Voices’, ‘It’s Too Late’ and the amazing ‘People Who Died’. The rest of the soundtrack is an awkward mix of bubblegum pop ‘Breakin’ the Rules (What Do You Do When Opposites Attract)’by Lene Lovich and a collection of 60s R&B covers from Jack Mack and the Heart Attack.

2 James Spader more often than not plays either out and out assholes (Less Than Zero, Pretty in Pink) or dark and eccentric characters (Crash, Secretary). It’s pretty rare that he plays a straight forward hero. I don’t really think it’s terribly suitable for the role of Morgan Hiller but it’s fun to see him playing a good guy for change.

3 So, apparently, it was only decided after the script was written and the film was prepped that they wanted to up the music and dance elements (to compete with Footloose). As a consequence, there’s a number of lengthy dance sequences in the film. The best (or worst depending on your opinion) is Kim Richards’ go for broke dance sequence. Watch it here.
4 Another awkward addition is James Spader’s impromptu song that he serenades his friends with when they crash a country club dinner. Again, simultaneously terrible and awesome. Watch it here.
I’m sorry to report that isn’t Spader singing and the song isn’t on the soundtrack.

5 The last great thing about the film is we get a young Robert Downey Jr playing Spader’s friend Jimmy. This was the first time they acted together (see also: Less Than Zero and Avengers: Age of Ultron). He gives a memorable performance, spending most of the film not wearing a shirt.

1 thing it didn’t need:
At 1 hour 50 minutes, this film is way too long. There’s not enough plot to sustain that runtime. Had this been a shorter film I think it would be more memorable. Still, for 80s nostalgists this is definitely a film to visit when you’ve worn out your John Hughes tapes.