“Tuff Turf” Defies Quality

Andrew Greene
2 min readNov 5, 2021
Now Showing on The Greene Screene: Tuff Turf (1985) AKA Into the Spaderverse #8

“I don’t think you can hold onto anything until you let it go.” -James Spader’s Morgan Hiller

Before Say Anything, before Ferris Bueller’s Day Off there was this racist, homophobic and fascinating time capsule that did the boom box and Twist and Shout thang a lot less successfully.

On its surface, this James Spader and Robert Downey Jr. sexy-off is quite problematic, but at a certain point it left me wondering if this was actually a subversive take on toxic masculinity way before its time. Indeed, after a scene of sexual assault near the midpoint, it felt like the movie rebooted with a new director and found a higher level of consciousness, but that might’ve been my edible kicking in.

Regardless, this movie has one of the best father-child scenes I can remember (nearly Eighth Grade and Call Me By Your Name good). For that, it’s bewildering, and unfortunate and more likely terrible than good, especially given that the message appears to be: the rich white kid does always win (the trick is not to take your money seriously, which sounds like privilege).

This is the kind of movie that had me questioning my ability to decipher quality in any meaningful fashion (I CAN’T HANDLE HOW TUFF THIS TURF IS!). This is the kind of movie that had me questioning whether quality can be deciphered reliably by ANYONE, reaching for the nearest Robert Pirsig novel. By the end of this toxic teen flick, I was scrawling on my notepad: “I don’t know anything anymore.”

Quality be damned. That’s quite the cinematic experience, no matter how tuff the turf is.



Andrew Greene

Writer, director. Creator of The Naked Man Podcast. Human sampler tray following breadcrumbs, forever hungry. @WanderingGreene on IG, Letterboxd & Twitter