Tuff Turf

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In Fritz Kiersch’s Tuff Turf (1985), James Spader’s character Morgan is relentlessly terrorized by gang leader Nick (Paul Mones), when Nick’s girlfriend Richie (Kim Richards) begins to fall for Spader. Nick and his gang break Morgan’s bike, beat him up, ambush him in the school locker room, shoot his father, kidnap Richie, shoot his friend (played by a 19 year old Robert Downey Jr.) in the leg, and beat him up some more. The violence in this film does well in defining the term excess, but it is also mesmerizing.

Nick seems to derive greater pleasure from terrorizing Morgan than he does raping his girlfriend Richie. Meanwhile Morgan takes a masochistic delight in pitting himself against Nick on his quest to win Richie (whom he never seems to show any significant affection for). All the supporting characters become pawns in this sado-masochistic passion play, of which there are many casualties. This heightened dramatic indulgence signifies one of two things, both of which remain ambiguous at the films conclusion. One, that such a relationship between social classes (poor and rich) is a necessity or by-product of the public school system. Second, the film could be exaggerating these relationships and by proxy the violence to provide a sort of case study on teenage violence, alleging that the root of such violence is inherently sexual.