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Tuff Turf

Tuff Turf (1985)

January. 11,1985
| Drama Action Romance

The new guy in a Los Angeles high school, Morgan, does some singing and fights hotshot Nick over disco dancer Frankie.


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Preppy bad boy Morgan Hiller (an excellent and charismatic performance by James Spader in an early lead role) transfers from an East Coast prep school to a new school in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood. An incorrigible troublemaker, Morgan runs afoul of vicious gang leader Nick Hauser (a nicely menacing portrayal by Paul Mones) and falls for Nick's foxy girlfriend Frankie (Kim Richards at her most insanely hot and appealing). Director Fritz Kiersch, working from an absorbing script by Jette Rinck, relates the engrossing story at a brisk pace, brings plenty of dazzling slick and sinewy style to the sturdy material, neatly blends moments of raucous humor with more poignant and subdued dramatic scenes, and stages the surprisingly bloody'n'brutal violence at the rousing conclusion with ferocious go-for-the-throat brio. The chemistry between Spader and Richards is quite strong and steamy. The sound acting from the capable cast keeps the narrative on track: Robert Downey Jr. handles comic relief duties with delightfully cheeky aplomb as smartaleck Jimmy Parker, Olivia Barash adds a dash of sass as the brash Ronnie, Matt Clark does fine work as Morgan's decent and honest working class dad, and Claudette Nevins likewise contributes a creditable turn as Morgan's worried mother. Moreover, Spader really struts his stuff as he woos Richards, dances, crashes a posh country club (a stand-out sidesplitting sequence), beats up the bad guys at the exciting climax, and even sings while playing a piano. The dynamic rock soundtrack and the funky pulsating synthesizer score by Jonathan Elias delivers an extra galvanizing kick. Willy Kurant's gleaming cinematography gives this movie a glittery neon sheen. A total blast.


Tuff Turf is an entertaining and fun Teen film that mixes Teen film,Gang film and Action film. Filled with great direction,a wonderful cast and a fantastic soundtrack,Tuff Turf is an entertaining 80's Teen film and a fine guilty pleasure.Set in Los Angeles,Tuff Turf tells the story of Morgan Hiller(James Spader),a rebellious teen who's family has moved to Los Angeles for a fresh start. Unfortunately,Morgan gets into trouble with a local street gang who's leader Nick(Paul Mones)wants Morgan's blood. To make matters worse Morgan starts falls for Nick's girlfriend Frankie(Kim Richards) which angers Nick and leads to violent confrontations and chaos between Morgan and Nick who want to survive in the Tuff Turf.The 1980s were arguably the golden age of Teen films and there were Teen films that broke down into two categories Teen films that were recognized during the 1980s and became classics years later and Teen films that are obscure and little known but find audiences years later. Tuff Turf fits into the latter category. Tuff Turf is a flawed but entertaining Teen film that is a combination of Rebel Without A Cause and West Side Story with elements of The Warriors and Class Of 1984 and while Tuff Turf doesn't match the greatness of those films I mentioned and doesn't do anything groundbreaking in terms of story Tuff Turf is a movie works in it's own right. Tuff Turf is also a genre mash-up film mixing together genres like Teen films,Gang film,Action film and a little bit of Musical thrown in as well and I think the mixture of all of those genres makes Tuff Turf a guilty pleasure and unintentionally hilarious. TT is a guilty pleasure in a sense where you watch the film and like but you as the viewer are almost afraid to say you liked it. TT is unintentionally hilarious because there are scenes and moments in the film that are really supposed to be serious and straight-forward but are so wild and over the top you can't help but laugh at how absurd at how serious the film tries to be. Although Tuff Turf is silly and very funny,there are times where the film can be dark,gritty and violent with a Film-Noir atmosphere that wasn't seen in Teen films during the 1980s. Morgan Hiller is a great character because he's a rebel who uses his wits and intelligence to get out of tough situations and can handle himself. At the same time Morgan is a character with great depth and is multi-dimensional because while Morgan is a rebel he's not a criminal or thug but just a very troubled and confused teenager that has to deal with the pressures of growing up,his parents,falling for Frankie as well as trying to battle Nick and his gang. The Morgan Hiller character is one of the reasons TT is memorable and entertaining to watch and you will like him as soon as he comes on the screen. The Action and fight scenes are well done and memorable with toughness and great pace and truly adds to the film. At 112 minutes TT moves at a good pace,grabs your attention and keeps you glued to the screen from beginning to end. If there is a flaw with Tuff Turf is that the tone and genre of the film is very uneven because one minute the tone can be light the next minute the tone can be dark and serious. Also you never know where Tuff Turf is going to go and what genre it is. TT is a Teen film then it's a gang film as well as an Action film and all of those elements can make the movie confusing at times. I guess TT was trying to make a Teen film that was different from other Teen films at the time by making a genre mash-up film and throwing in everything but the kitchen sink in this movie and sometimes it succeeds and other times it fails The final 15-20 minutes of Tuff Turf are Action-packed and thrilling and a great ending and fun cap-off to the film.The whole cast is wonderful. James Spader is excellent and memorable as Morgan Hiller,with Spader bringing depth,charisma and humor to the role. Kim Richards is wonderful and beautiful as Frankie,Morgan's love interest and Nick's girlfriend. Paul Mones is fantastic as Nick,a gang leader and rival of Morgan and Frankie's boyfriend. Robert Downey Jr. is great as Jimmy,a student who becomes Morgan's friend. Matt Clark is wonderful as Stuart Hiller,Morgan's Father. Olivia Barash(Ronnie),Claudette Nevins(Page Hiller),Panchito Gomez(Mickey),Michael Wyle(Eddie),Catya Sassoon(Feather)and Bill Meyers(Brian Hiller)give good performances as well.The direction by Fritz Kiersch is great,with Kiersch bringing a great pace and style to the film,as well as great camera angles and movements. Wonderful direction,Kiersch.The score by Johnathan Elias is great and effective and matches the tone of the film. A fine score by Elias. The film also has a great soundtrack with songs from Jack Mack And The Heart Attack(So Tuff,Green Onions,She's Looking Good),Jim Carroll(People Who Died,Voices,It's Too Late),Marianne Faithful(Love Hates),Southside Johnny(Tuff Turf),Lene Lovich(Breakin' The Rules(What Do You Do When Opposites Attract),Dale Gonyea With J.R. & The Z-Man(Twist And Shout)and Jonathan Elias(We Walk The Night). Great soundtrack.In final word,if you love Teen Films,Gang Films or Action films,I suggest you see Tuff Turf,a film that's flawed and far from perfect but is entertaining,fun and is well worth your time. Recommended. 8.5/10.


This movie is a must-see for fans of 80's movies. It's not as well known as some of the other movies that Robert Downey Jr and James Spader are in, but it's a solid movie that's worth watching. Robert Downey Jr steals the movie in every scene he is in and provides much needed comic relief.The action is enjoyable and James Spader does an excellent job as the former rich kid, trying to make it in a new school. Another reason for watching is a rare performance by the Jim Carroll Band about halfway through the movie.It's a satisfying high school / action movie that delivers!

Joseph P. Ulibas

Tuff Turf brings back memories of watching movies on Select TV. This 80's cult hit is about a young rapscallion who's life is turned upside down when his upper class father hits financial trouble forcing his family to move out to the 'hood. James Spader slowly learns how to deal with street life whilst his family adjusts to dealing with people that are of "lower social class". Interesting film staring James Spader as the young punk rich kid, Matt Clark as his shell shocked father, Robert Downey Jr. as his high school buddy and Kim Richards (Escape To Witch Mountain) as his soon to be girlfriend. The only part of the movie that gave me the willies was when his older (more culturally refined) brother pays a visit, there's an oedipal conflict between the two (the scene where the older brother embraces his mom far too long and hugs her too close for comfort)that would have given Freud a thrill to try and psycho-analyzed. Recommended for 80's fans.