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Olive Films // PG-13 // June 23, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 23, 2015 | E-mail the Author
"Thrashers: that sounds, vandals and juvenile deliquents. Troubled youth."
"Naw, no, no. Thrashin'! It's just an aggressive style of skating. Y'know, we thrash."
"Well, what do you thrash?"
"Whaddya got?"

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Think Breakin' with skateboards and a similar disregard for that trailing letter 'g'. Josh Brolin is Corey Webster, an outsider thrashin' away the summer in Los Angeles. His pals from down in the Valley are the Ramp Locals, a group of inoccuous skaters who are indeed local and have a ramp. Their arch-rivals are the ominously-named Daggers, a gang of leather-clad roughnecks who spraypaint daggers everywhere in case you forget what to call 'em. Corey quickly finds love and romance in the City of Angels, falling for Chrissy (the once and future Cherry 2000 herself, Pamela Gidley), who just happens to be the kid sister of -- ::audible gasp!:: -- a Dagger. Tommy Hook doesn't take kindly to his sister dating a boy from The Valley (even though he's not?), and before you can say "skate or die", it's all-out war between the Ramp Locals and the Daggers. You're lookin' at scorched ramps, fist fights, jousting matches, and yup, even a huge climactic race, Airborne-style.

So, yeah, there's a whole lotta skateboarding. You're treated to one sequence early on where the Daggers skate around Cali interminably like Hal Warren's countryside drive in Manos: the Hands of Fate. You've got all sorts of P.O.V. skating shots. If you see a trick you think is really cool, brace yourself, 'cause you're probably about to see it again six seconds later. Hook is painted as this sneering, badass skater, which is kinda funny since he generally just slowly skates along in a straight line. Still, some of the camerawork is pretty great, such as one shot that follows Corey skating under a truck, and a handful of the tricks still impress today. The less-than-stellar editing blunts some of the action sequences, and a few cuts seem like they were piecemealed together from entirely different movies. One of the most glaring examples is the legendary "No, you be there!" exchange. Cuts like that one from Hook to Little Stevie can be awkward, some shots linger on for just a few seconds too long, and there are all sorts of continuity hiccups with hair and wardrobe from one shot to the next. What I'm getting at is that there's often just not a strong sense of flow.

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Thrashin' also does a lackluster job conveying how dangerous some of the more intense sequences are supposed to be. At one point, Hook and Corey square off in a skating joust, dueling with...I don't know, empty fanny packs on a chain. Could've been interesting, but the battle is very sllloooooooow, and the bags don't look like they have any weight to them at all. I don't actually expect the cast to duel to the death with actual weapons or whatever, but it would've been nice if it looked like something moderately thrilling was going on. The climactic downhill race suffers in that same way. Corey prattles on to Chrissy about the breakneck speed of these skaters plummetting down those mountainous roads, but when the big moment finally comes, the roads don't look particularly steep and the skaters don't seem to be moving all that quickly until it's whittled down to a two-man race. Despite all the exposition along those lines and some excessively cartoonish spin-outs by competitors at every turn (and I mean "every turn" in the most literal sense), just looking at 'em move, the racers don't appear to be zipping along all that much until the last couple of minutes.

...but hey, that's all part of Thrashin's charm. Thrill to sterling, repetitive verbal battles like "Oh, and Corey...? You come near Chrissy again, and you're dead meat." "Oh yeah? Well, after the L.A. Massacre, you're dead meat, Hook." Sick burn! The cast is great, headed by Josh Brolin, fresh off The Goonies and hellbent on baring his abs for the entire length of the movie. David Wagner (Little Stevie) went onto pen National Lampoon's Van Wilder and snag a bit role in Saving Ryan's Privates. Josh Richman, who played Radley, had a recurring role on 21 Jump Street and later started managing the band Deadsy. Tony Hawk, Tony Alva, Steve Caballero, and a couple of other pros sneak in, there's a live performance by the Hillel Slovak-era Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Thrashin' also marks one of Sherilyn Fenn's earliest appearances on-screen. Far and away my favorite of the bunch, though, is Brett Marx, who isn't the guy who played Buddy Cole on Kids in the Hall, but you might remember him anyway as Jimmy Feldman from The Bad News Bears.

At one point early on, a skater boasts that "breakin' is a memory." Well, yeah, but it's a breezy, nostalgic memory, and that's why Breakin' is part of the DVD and Blu-ray collections of so many thirty and fortysomethings. The smart money says that Thrashin' oughtta appeal to people who grew up skateboarding in the '80s in that same way. Admittedly, it's not some indescribably brilliant film that'll forever redefine the way its viewers perceive the art of cinema, and with far more breathtaking skateboarding footage having so deeply saturated pop culture, this older collection of skate stunts as a whole doesn't hold up all that well. Thrashin' is too earnest and likeable to give it that hard a time, though, and although it hasn't entirely aged well, its flaws ultimately wind up being part of the appeal. If you ever had a subscription to Thrasher or had a bunch of skateboarding bootlegs on VHS, this one's an easy recommendation.

My kneejerk reaction after popping in this Blu-ray disc:
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Thrashin' really does look incredible in high-def. The razor-sharp image is bolstered by meaty contrast and vividly saturated colors that leap clear off the screen. The movie may be '80s as hell, but at its best, Thrashin' looks like its cameras could've been rolling a week and a half ago. I'm deeply impressed by the very fine sheen of film grain, leaving me thinking that this must be a far more recent transfer than what MGM has generally been licensing out. That filmic texture has been encoded beautifully as well. The presentation unavoidably takes a hit on either side of dissolves, and a few sequences suffer from more nicks and speckling than the rest -- wonder what it means that the movie's sex scene shows the most wear -- but Thrashin' otherwise leaves very little room for complaint. I haven't had a chance to dig my original DVD out of storage to do a direct comparison, but I can't fathom that it'd even come close to what MGM and Olive Films have delivered here.

Thrashin' lands onto a single layer Blu-ray disc at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

Served up in two-channel mono, Thrashin's 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio track isn't anywhere near that same league, though. An awful lot of the songs on the soundtrack are flat, dull, and lifeless, and it's especially depressing to hear the snare in Devo's "Good Thing" sound like Alan Myers was pounding on a cardboard box. A good bit of the dialogue is scratchy and harsh as well. Thrashin' sounded awfully lackluster on DVD too, and it's a bit of a letdown that more wasn't (or couldn't be?) done this time around.

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This Blu-ray release loses the French dub and all of the subtitles from the original MGM DVD.

It's a drag that Olive Films carried over so many of the extras from the pretty much universally reviled Soul Plane, but Thrashin'...? Stiffed. The DVD special edition from back in 2003 piled on an infectiously fun commentary track, a reunion featurette, a making-of retrospective, some pro skaters analyzing the the flick's portrayal of skate culture, and a trailer. Every bit of that's been axed here: no extras whatsoever, unless you count chapter stops or something.

The Final Word
Thrashin' is a nostalgic blast, bringing all sorts of memories of cheap decks and a closet full of Vision Street Wear tees flooding to the surface. Anyone who was even a little bit into skateboarding in the mid-'80s oughtta find something to appreciate here, and I had a hell of a lot of fun watching it with my wife who wasn't even alive when Thrashin' rolled into theaters. The only frustrating thing is all of the DVD extras getting chucked out the driver's side window. Either hold onto your old DVD too or be prepared to shell out another ten bucks to get the full experience. Still Recommended, tho'.
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