Absent of Extras and High on Cheese, 'Thrashin'' Still Offers Nostalgic Pleasure

Brent McKnight

Before ubiquitous YouTube clips and easily accessible skate videos, Thrashin' was the film for our fix of handplants, bonelesses, crazy high judo airs, and the like.


Director: David Winters
Cast: Josh Brolin, Robert Rusler, Pamela Gidley
Distributor: Olive Films
Rated: PG-13
US DVD Release Date: 2015-06-23

Along with a handful of movies that included Rad, Top Gun, and Red Dawn, David Winters’ 1986 skateboarding action drama Thrashin’ had a formative impact on my youth and my subsequent adult life, to a possibly unhealthy degree. If you’ve missed out on owning a copy of your own, however, and want to watch a young Josh Brolin shredding the streets of Los Angeles, Olive Films just released a new DVD and Blu-ray version of the film for your convenience.

As much as I adore this movie, even 29 years later (enough to warrant the purchase price), there really isn’t much more to it. Scratch that, beyond the movie, there isn’t anything to this at all. The movie is exactly as you remember it -- bright and dated and super cheesy -- but still a total blast, full of energetic skate montages; however, that’s all you get.

Available on DVD for years, you can now upgrade to Blu-ray, although if you’re looking to take a step forward, you may want to reconsider before you plunk down your hard-earned cash. While the picture looks as good as it probably ever will, it’s not substantially improved from any previous releases. If you already have Thrashin’ in your library, there’s no pressing need to rush right out to your local retailer. Maybe if there were any extras or bonus features to sweeten the pot you could justify such a move, but the Blu-Ray comes with precisely zero trimmings, and the cover looks like a Xeroxed page of a vintage issue of the magazine Thrasher.

While the overall package isn’t worth getting excited about, the movie itself is the real draw; if you pick this up, that’s why. It may be ridiculous and predictable and formulaic, but to be fair, even as a half-pint skate rat rolling around my neighborhood on a mismatched set of Slime Balls and renting a warped VHS tape from the corner store every weekend, I knew Thrashin’ was all of those things. Not one of them stop it from being absurdist fun. If you loved it then, you’ll likely still love it now. It hasn’t aged what most people would call well, but it’s still totally radical, from the synth heavy title song to the triumphant, fist-pumping finalé where all problems are magically solved.

The story revolves around Corey Webster (Josh Brolin), an aspiring skateboarder looking for pro sponsorship. He hangs out with his collection of bros, thrashin’ whatever you got, and getting ready for the L.A. Massacre, a harrowing downhill race that, should he win, will make all his dreams come true. Simple, right?

Things get complicated, however, when he encounters Chrissy (Pamela Gidley), who just happens be the sister of Hook (Robert Rusler), the vicious leader of the rival skate gang, The Daggers. Remember that discussion we had earlier about how this movie being cheesy? Yeah. Thrashin’ is your standard star-crossed lovers story, like Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story, only on skateboards, and with less dance fighting.

The main thrust of the story is bland. Corey is handsome and wonderful and surprisingly enlightened, while Chrissy is a virginal small town girl who literally climbs off a bus from Indiana. However, the supporting players are a ridiculous assemblage of types and tropes. You’ve got the hunky group leader (Brooke McCarther), the fast-talking scam artist (Josh Richman), the little brat (David Wagner), and the idiot (Brett Marx), who comes across as borderline mentally disabled, for which the others both torment him mercilessly and take advantage of.

The villains are the least intimidating collection of rogues you’ve ever seen. Most of them don’t get many lines, but they are a who’s who of pro skaters of the day, as well as a young Sherilyn Fenn — the dual threat of Thrashin’ and The Wraith a year later is why I will always be in love with her, even before Twin Peaks.

Thrashin’ is 100 percent a product of its time, a cheap, by-the-numbers film full of pretty young actors, produced with the intention of cashing in on a popular subculture. But there is also a dirty punk rock countercultural undercurrent flowing beneath the Day-Glo colors and open shirts flapping in the breeze. One character wears a JFA shirt, while another sports a Crass shirt, and the Daggers hangout looks suspiciously like a house I once shared with as many as 14 roommates. This soundtrack was the first place I encountered the Circle Jerks, another formative moment, and there’s a performance from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, years before they hit the mainstream.

The real selling point of Thrashin’, however, are the totally radical old school skate montages. In a time before ubiquitous YouTube clips and easily accessible skate videos, this is where many of us turned to get our fix for handplants, bonelesses, crazy high judo airs, and the like. For that alone, Thrashin' will always have a place in the hearts of an entire generation. If you’re one of them, and don’t already own a copy of your own, this will at least provide you with 93-minutes worth of smile-producing nostalgia.


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