B-Sides: Ultron Returns to the Age of Tuff Turf

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B-Sides: Ultron Returns to the Age of Tuff TurfThe announcement that James Spader had been cast as the villainous Ultron in The Avengers: Age of Ultron spawned countless Less than Zero jokes on social media. Me? I see The Avengers sequel as a Tuff Turf reunion.

Two years before James Spader and Robert Downey, Jr., co-starred in the movie adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis’ Less than Zero, the duo co-starred in a true guilty pleasure entitled Tuff Turf. If you were to look back to the Eighties and try to pick a single movie that is the most 1980s movie ever, a strong argument could be made in favor of 1985’s Tuff Turf. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another film of the era more dripping with Nu Wave music and fashion, Reagan era preppie angst, 80’s teen comedy, and the sort of white suburban street gangs that now look positively cartoonish in our post-Boyz in the Hood world.

James Spader plays a rebel truly without a cause from a formerly rich family forced to move from their yacht-clubbing Connecticut lifestyle to the middle-class suburbs of the San Fernando Valley. Oh, the horror!

Spader’s preppie troublemaker falls for a cute almost-glam rock girl from the wrong side of the tracks (played by current “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast member Kim Richards), whose boyfriend is the leader of a street gang that doesn’t look like it would have put up much of a fight against the street toughs from Rumble in the Bronx.

Along the way he also makes friends with future Iron Man, Robert Downey, Jr.

By the end of the film, his girlfriend has been beaten up, his dad is still in critical condition after having been shot, Downey has also been shot, and somehow Spader is going to have to explain to the cops the carnage in this warehouse after his fight to the death with the gang. But since Tuff Turf is such an odd mix of teen drama, teen comedy, and action thriller that wants to send the audience home happy, no sooner has Spader slain his psychotic arch nemesis than the movie cuts to the super upbeat end credits musical number with Spader, Richards, and Downey enjoying the film’s theme song performed by Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. “So Tuff” has got to be the peppiest song to ever close a movie about violent teenage street gangs.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is scheduled to hit theaters in 2015: the 30th anniversary of Tuff Turf.


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