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TUFF TURF

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, July 19, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: A pre-stardom lead role for James Spader and pre-stardom co-starring role for Robert Downey Jr. as his sidekick (billed without the “Jr.”— and who doesn’t even get a mention in my review) highlight this ’80s trifle. Still, the film has just received a Blu-ray upgrade from Kino Lorber. So, here’s my review, published March 6, 1985, in the Deseret News.

As hard as I try not to judge movies from their ads or previews it becomes difficult not to have certain expectations based on previous experience.

For example, whenever I see that a forthcoming movie is being released by New World Pictures or Cannon Releasing Corp., I expect to be bored or appalled or both. Admittedly both companies have had pictures that were surprisingly entertaining — but those were the exceptions, not the rule.

For example, “Missing in Action 2,” subtitled “The Beginning” proves to be every bit as lame and insulting as its predecessor, but — giving credit where credit is due — “Tuff Turf” proves to be better than expected.

     

  James Spader, left, Robert Downey (Jr.), 'Tuff Turf'

“Tuff Turf,” which should also have a subtitle – “Screenwriter in Search of a Dictionary” — isn’t bad, at least the first half.

A formerly rich, bullied Connecticut teen (James Spader) is transplanted to a tough … , er, that is, “tuff” … Los Angeles high school and immediately runs into trouble with some young toughs. Er, tuffs.

He also falls for the leader’s girl.

In addition, Spader plays piano and sings with talent but his parents don’t understand him. There is also a constant rock score and even some scenes in a teen nightclub-cum-warehouse, where we see a couple of rock bands, like Jack Mack and the Heart Attack (easily the best shown here).

Call this one “West Side Story” meets “Footloose” by way of “Rebel Without a Cause.”

     

The actors are amiable enough and there is some good humor but the second half of the film sinks into violent melodrama that (except for its graphic aspects) seems lifted from some deplorable daytime soap opera.

Still, you could do worse. “Tuff Turf” has its moments and some of them are pretty darn good.

The saddest aspect of this film is seeing Art Evans, so good as the soldier who is humiliated by his tough sergeant in “A Soldier’s Story,” relegated to a nondescript cameo role here.

“Tuff Turf” is rated R for violence, sex, nudity and profanity.