Tuff Turf (1985)

Man, James Spader. Either he’s trying to appeal to you as a hero, which never seems to work or embracing the pure narcissistic evil that we all dream that he’s best at. For me, the James Spader of The New Kids is the Spader I know that he can be. Alpha Spader. Pure Florida cokehead menace.

Even later TV hero versions of Spader — Boston LegalThe Blacklist — have a sadness within either their heroic or antiheroic characters. He’s lived a life. Hell, thanks to the magic of movies, he’s lived plenty of them.

Director Fritz Kiersch has an interesting career, starting with 1984’s Children of the Corn. This movie is the follow up to that, but he’d go on to make 1987’s Gor — yes, the one based on the BDSM male-dominated world of author John Norman — as well as 1992’s jetfighter drama Into the Sun.

In this lifetime, Spader is Morgan Hiller. He used to live in Connecticut, but once his dad’s business fails, he moves to Los Angeles where he struggles to meet friends and not get his ass handed to him on a daily basis.

Of course, he falls for bad girl Frankie (Kim Richards, who would go from Nanny and the Professor to the Witch Mountain movies and being the little girl who gets killed in Assault on Precinct 13 before becoming a reality show star and the aunt of Paris Hilton), which draws the insane attention of her real man, Nick Hauser and his gang. Paul Mones, who plays that crazy kid, would go on to write Double Team and The Quest for Van Damme. Yeah, really.

Keep your eyes on the lookout for a young Catya Sassoon, the daughter of Vidal, the hairdressing dude who bottled his shampoo and became rich and famous. This is also an opportunity to see a young Robert Downey Jr.

The soundtrack is pretty good, too. Pre-Basketball Diaries this has Jim Carroll all over it, as well as Marianne Faithful and Southside Johnny. This feels like a time when America flirted with punk, new wave, the return of the 1950’s and so many more musical genres which all overlapped.

The end of this all seems too happy what with all the father getting gunned down and mental abuse and anguish, as the main characters all play along with the band Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. There’s also a scene where Spader sings to Frankie at a country club, with Paul Carney (Art’s son) providing the singing voice.

You can watch this for free on Amazon Prime.

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