Thrashin’

| June 19, 2015

I’ve been watching a lot of interesting new releases from Olive Films lately, and you can find my reviews for things like Zombies From Outer Space, and How to Murder Your Wife on this site.  Next week, Olive is releasing a new group of movies on blu-ray that might’ve never otherwise found the light of day.  Last night, I watched their new blu-ray release of Thrashin’, a 1986 teen drama about rival skateboarding gangs in Los Angeles vying to win a series of competitions for fame and fortune.  The film stars a very young Josh Brolin (Guardians of the Galaxy) alongside Pamela Gidley (True Blood) and Robert Rusler (Weird Science), and it’s one of the most eighties things I’ve ever seen.

First of all, about half of this movie is a music video.  We’re constantly breaking away from the plot of the film to show a montage of our heroes skateboarding, working on cars, or otherwise disappointing their conservative parents.  The soundtrack is great, with a lot of songs I’m not familiar with, but nicely cementing the movie in the era it’s meant to exist in.  Unfortunately, these sequences (while fun) broadcast that the movie doesn’t have enough story or character depth to fill a feature length film.  Constantly bombarding the audience with these facetious montages tend to make it difficult for the viewer to track what’s going on with the characters or empathize with what they’re experiencing emotionally, or care about what little is at stake.

I like watching the early work of an actor I admire and seeing Josh Brolin in this is no exception.  One thing I found very interesting was that his voice doesn’t sound anything like it does now.  This was distracting to the point where I had to wonder if all of Brolin’s dialogue was dubbed over by someone else.  Couldn’t find anything to confirm this, but I guess it doesn’t matter.  Brolin does a fine job as our hero, seeming to do a lot of the skateboarding tricks himself and believably pursuing his character’s wants.  As stated, not a lot is at stake here, so while Brolin’s success is predictable in true 80s fashion, it’s unclear what would happen if he loses the big climactic race.  All I can tell is that he wouldn’t get his sponsorship deal and might have to move back home to the dreaded Midwest.  At least he’d still get the girl.

Most of the characters are fairly archetypal.  Brolin’s the hero who’s only complicated by his teenage angst pushing loved ones away.  Tommy Hook (Rusler) is the villain who’s willing to do whatever it takes to cheat his way into winning.  He’s also really intense with his sister (Gidley) about dating the Brolin character, but at least she’s never victimized so the hero has to choose between saving her and winning the race.  It could’ve easily gone that way.

Going back to the big final race, it is wonderfully done.  I really enjoyed watching it with the way it was shot.  Even more eighties elements throughout, with kids taking turns too fast and jumping over the camera in slow motion, or the hero donning a helmet while Hook goes without presumably to not mess up his hair.  The final race doesn’t compare to what is easily my favorite scene, however.  At one point, Brolin and Rusler face off in a sort of skateboarding joust, where they skate at each other and try to hurt the other with some kind of mace-like weapon.  I’ve never really seen anything like it.

Overall, Thrashin’ is a really fun movie in the style of movies that simply don’t get made anymore.  It has its flaws, but children of the eighties will enjoy it, and the new blu-ray transfer looks great.  Available on June 23.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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