Johnny Tough/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Johnny Tough

One of very few G-Rated blaxploitation entries, Tough AKA Johnny Tough, offers up an alternative, seventies centric, take on teenage angst.

Dion Gossett is Johnny Banes, a big afroed boy who’s having trouble on all fronts. At home he’s forced to be an audience for his constantly bickering parents, at school, desperate for validation, he’s the class clown, and amongst his friends he has to constantly prove himself: everyone says he’s going to end up “being a janitor.”

Johnny’s self-centered aspiring actress mom Denise (Sandy Reed) is a trip, a woman who views her son as an incorrigible troublemaker keeping her from her silver screen dreams. Johnny’s insurance salesman stepdad Phil (Renny Roker) means well: taking him out for burgers and imploring the boy’s mom to be more patient and understanding, but Johnny is “tough.” And then there’s the boy’s haranguing white elementary school teacher Mr. Bishop (Rich Holmes). Bishop treats Johnny, and all his mostly black and brown students with contempt. His job, it seems, is to keep the animals in check.

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Writer/producer/director Horace Wilson (The Bus is Coming, Deliver Us From Evil) continues his commitment to providing alternative, “clean,” black-cast narratives devoid of ghetto culture accouterments. Although there are fights, plenty of mischief and shoplifting, Tough presents a good looking, home owning middle class black family dealing with middle class issues.

Slim budgeted, threadbare and largely populated with a cast of non-actors, Tough, with its downbeat ending, was praised by the old guard but deemed too corny by the young action loving audiences it was promoted to. Pluses are vintage California locations and a soundtrack by Dennis Coffey—best known for his pop/soul instrumental hit “Scorpio.”


Josiah Howard is the author of four books including Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide (now in a fourth printing). His writing credits include articles for the American Library of Congress, The New York Times and Readers Digest. A veteran of more than one hundred radio broadcasts, Howard also lectures on cinema and is a frequent guest on entertainment news television. Visit his Official Website.

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