• Thrashin'

    Released By: Olive Films
    Released On: June 23, 2015.
    Director: David Winters
    Cast: Josh Brolin, Robert Rusler, Pamela Gidley, Tony Alva, Christian Hosoi
    Year: 1986

    The Film:

    The 1980's. Big hair. Synth pop. Neon. More Neon. Hoop earrings. The dull earth tones of the 1970's all but eradicated, making way for a much brighter, much louder aesthetic that infiltrated virtually everything; music, clothing, artwork, advertising, and narcotics were flashier and supercharged. Even the skateboarding scene was affected, with the punk rock beach rat look of the 70's Dogtown era of skateboarding replaced by the eye-catching clothes and decks marketed by Santa Cruz, Vision, and Powell-Peralta.

    Although it's probably open to debate, Powell-Peralta's Bones Brigade team were THE new models for this revival of the skateboarding industry, rocking bright neon skate attire and boards with blinding artwork...skulls and swords, skulls and snakes, and even more skulls in pinks, yellows, and greens, with glow-in-the-dark wheels, and an assortment of violently garish shades of griptape. As the colours got brighter and the tricks got more elaborate, just about every kid in neighbourhoods around the world pressured their parents to buy into this newly reborn trend. Some of the more innovative tried out their carpentry skills by slapping quarter pipes and launch ramps together in the street, while the uber-talented built giant half pipes in their yards. Even those of us whose parents were not supportive did what we could to get in on it, wearing the (much less expensive) knockoff versions of the clothing and riding budget boards from whatever department stores existed at the time, doing what we could to pull off the moves found in Powell-Peralta's Bones Brigade videos. (For the record, I was just about the worst skater ever, a hobby I still manage to suck at today, but once I saw a picture of my classmate Jeff catching what seemed to be 20 feet of air off of a street ramp, I knew that I wanted to be that good, no matter how many times I had to eat concrete. It still hasn't happened.)

    With so much attention on skateboarding and the huge sums of money that came with it, Hollywood naturally decided to get in on the act, in the same way that they attempted to cash in on the BMX thing with RAD. And so, Thrashin' was born, taking many of the themes commonly found in films and wrapping them in a package that would hopefully appeal to a worldwide audience of skaters. Josh Brolin, (fresh off of the success of The Goonies) plays Corey Webster, a good-looking Valley kid who lives to skate, opting to jump out of his bedroom window and skate off of the roof rather than use the stairs. Within the first 2 minutes of the film, Corey's mission is clear; he's going to compete in the LA Massacre, a fierce downhill skate that will run through the hills and canyons of Los Angeles.

    Kick-flipping and grinding his way into the city, Corey meets up with his brightly-attired friends Tyler, Radster and Bozo, arriving just in time to help them complete their wooden half-pipe. Naming themselves "The Ramp Locals" on the spot, they break into a gnarly ramp session that immediately draws a huge crowd and provides an opportunity for some stunt skaters to show off some big air tricks while also showing off their name-brand gear. After a good night's rest, the gang heads over to Venice Beach, stopping to turn Bozo's new car into a convertible, and check out the mad freestyle skills of (Bones Brigader) Per Welinder. It's here that Corey first catches the eye of Chrissy, a beautiful blond from Illinois who gives him a shy smile, indicating that there may be more to come. But skateboarding is still Corey's prime motivation, and he's distracted by a trip into dangerous territory to ride a ramp frequented by The Daggers, a gang who dye their hair, wear denim cuts and leather, and drink beer in public. Led by Hook (Rusler), the Daggers clearly represent the aesthetic and moral opposite to the Ramp Locals fun-loving hobbyists, and it's obvious that things are going to get nasty if the groups cross paths again.

    A later chance encounter at a club for skaters, where skaters show off their moves to live music, provides the genesis for the conflict, when Chrissy tells Corey that she's Hook's sister, and that Hook will also be competing in the LA Downhill. But it's at a subsequent pool competition, where Corey's big moves and natural talent draw the attention and sabotaging skills of The Daggers, who try to take him out of the competition for good and send him back to the Valley. Arson, fistfights, and a bizarre midnight jousting session follow, and Corey realizes that his skills as a skater may not be enough to keep him alive for the final competition.

    Despite (and because of) an inordinate amount of cinematic cheese, Thrashin' is a whole lot of fun. The contrast between the look and mannerisms of the two gangs is often hilarious, with the Daggers' overdone punk rock snarling eliciting as much mirth as the fun-loving goofiness of the Ramp Locals. The dialogue ventures from profound to contrived in the blink of an eye, and some of the more obvious ADR moments ("I KNOW WHERE THEIR RAMP IS!") will either cause an outbreak of laughter, or head-scratching confusion. That being said, this modernized take on Romeo and Juliet has a whole lot of heart that allows you to overlook the godawful love scene, the fashion product placement, and the moments that you know are supposed to be sinister, but fail spectacularly. Even the horrible theme song (performed by Meat Loaf) gets a pass; in part for being so....not thrashin'...but also because it gets balanced out by excellent tracks from DEVO and the Circle Jerks, not to mention a live performance by then relatively unknown group the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And for all of the overacting to be found, there are some great performances to be found within, and a dynamic and camaraderie between the actors that is hard to come by. Brolin and Rusler both take to their parts like naturals, even handling a large amount of the skating scenes themselves.

    And speaking of the skating...whoa. Look no further than the supporting cast for evidence of awesomeness, with Tony Alva and Christian Hosoi front and center as Hook's fellow daggers, or the Bones Brigade alumni like Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, and Mike McGill stunt doubling for many of the scenes. And while a second unit, led by Stacy Peralta and a number of other pro skaters is more than likely responsible for much of Thrashin's fast-paced action involving methods, judos, and acid drops (Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol would use similar tactics), Director David Winters has certainly been around the block enough to know what works and what doesn't. As such, Thrashin' rocks and rolls along and never gets boring...well, that love scene could probably go, but that's nitpicking. It may not have been as successful at cashing in on the skate boom as was intended, but it does manage to capture a time, a place, and a scene that some still remember fondly.


    Thrashin' arrives on blu-ray (finally) in a 1.85:1 transfer that looks...better than the DVD. Really, it looks great. That being said, some scenes definitely come across better than others, while some are a little more soft. Colours are vivid for the most part, and there are only a few instances of dirt that pop up, while other artifacts like compression issues are non-existent. Black levels are also decent. All in all, it's a good transfer whose issues may be more the result of 30 year old film that hasn't earned the Criterion treatment.

    The DTS HD Master Audio stereo track is also okay, though it does come across as a little thin at times. Dialogue does tend to remain clear, though there are once again scenes that are more lacking than others. It is nice that nobody monkeyed with the exaggerated volume of the looped dialogue, preserving the hilarity that I remember from seeing the film back in the 80's.

    Unfortunately, there are NO extras included on this release, which is a pretty big disappointment, and a reason to hold onto the existing MGM DVD, as the commentary on that disc was alone worth the price of admission. Sadly, given the rather high asking price for this blu, the lack of supplements may be cause for some to skip the film upgrade.

    The Final Word:

    Though opinions may vary, Thrashin' is a super-fun film full of 80's schlocky goodness and tons of skating. The Olive blu-ray is definitely the nicest way to see the film so far, but the lack of extras and high MSRP doesn't really scream "Must Have".

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!