Jan 18, 2011


Out of all the various obsessions I have consumed myself with throughout my life (and there are many), skateboarding was easily the activity that I had the greatest passion for. That being said, I made the effort to hunt down any movie that featured skateboarding in any form. Out of all the skateboard films I spent a lot of time and money locating (which were usually out-of-print VHS tapes before the days of easily downloading rare movies online), Thrashin’ was one of the few skateboarding films worth re-watching. Not only does the 1986 film feature vintage skateboarding but it also includes hardcore punk music which used to be one of my favorite genres of music. What better adrenalin rush than trying to escape from a rival skate gang while The Circle Jerks song “Wild in the Streets” is playing as featured in Thrashin’. The other day I decided to revisit the film and I must admit after reviewing it after so many years, I felt a bit of nostalgia, quite the achievement for a bitter young man like myself. Like Penelope Spheeris’s Suburbia, Thrashin’ is like trashy junk food, something I like to get myself into whenever I want to kickback and not take life so serious, just like your typical American. 


Thrashin’ is essentially a “Romeo and Juliet” love story mixed with elements of The Warriors, set in the 1980s Los Angeles skateboarding world. Cory Webster is the” leader” (which means he is just the best at skateboarding in his group) of the “good guy” skate gang “The Ramp LOCALS!” Essentially, the Ramp Locals look like a bunch hippies that wear neon daisy dukes and probably listen to shitty 1980s cock-rock musick. The much cooler gang is the “bad guy” gang “The Daggers,” a group of hardcore punk rocker skaters. The leader of the Daggers is Hook, a guy that also happens to be the brother of Chrissy, the love interest of rival gang leader Cory Webster. Hook makes no lie that his biggest priority is his persona and style. When his sister responds critically to a punk style picture of himself that he sent to his mom, Hook states quite ridiculously (and hilariously), “That wild Indian picture happens to be styling. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” It may only be shallow fashion but most skater cliques in real-life dislike other skaters that dress differently as expressed in Thrashin'. Of course, in the 1980s skaters were less divided socially when you consider the various subcultures contained within skateboarding culture nowadays. After all, I doubt many paper-gangsta Wigger skaters existed in the 1980s but there is quite the abundance of them nowadays.

Not only does Thrashin’ feature hardcore punk music but also a variety of other classic tunes from the 1980s. I must admit that I quite enjoy the girly romance song “Don’t Think Twice” by Canadian singer France Joli that is played when Cory and Chrissy have their first romantic night together. Such songs bring me back to a time when I was more optimistic about love and when misogyny was not a glaring character trait of mine.  I was also happy to notice whilst re-watching Thrashin’ that a song by the underrated and revolutionary music outfit Devo is included in the film during a virginal half-pipe scene as the Ramp Locals skate their newly built ramp. For fans of the Red Hot Chili Peppers fans (I can’t say I am one), Thrashin’ also includes a musical performance by the original lineup of the group, before Israeli guitarist Hillel Slovak overdosed on heroin. Despite the cheese factor of many of the songs featured in the film, Thrashin’ would not be half the film it is (undeniably losing a lot of the silly charm it resonates) had the creators of the film decided to merely create a generic score. 

 One of the greatest scenes in Thrashin’ is a nighttime sk8 joust between rival gang leaders Corey and Hook. Jousting is surely an activity that should make a comeback in the skateboarding world. After all, with most professional (and even amateur) skaters doing tricks down 20+ stairs nowadays, jousting does not seem like such a dangerous activity. To the credit (and one of the very few credits I will give the show) of the MTV series Jackass, the jackasses on the show paid homage to Thrashin’ with an episode featuring sk8 jousting. It has been 7+ years since I quit skateboarding but Thrashin’ is the kind of film that makes me want to once again take another trip to the local skate park. The skating in Thrashin’ is no doubt dated (freestyle skateboarding is even featured in the film, a style of skateboarding that is long extinct) but the film expresses the spirit of fun and camaraderie involved with skating. Of course, by the end of Thrashin’, the fantastic and unrealistic message of “love conquers all” is emphasized but that is what one expects from a schlocky sk8 flick made in the 1980s. The closest thing to a gang that I ever was in was my old skate crew and fun was always to be had whether in the form of skateboarding or petty crime (vandalism was always entertaining). If there is a 1980s Hollywood skateboard film that captures of zeitgeist of 80s skate culture it is without fail Thrashin’.

-Ty E


A.D. said...

Great review. THRASHIN' is one of my favorite '80s films. It's full of so many great moments and quotable lines of dialogue, my favorite being the "stylin" bit you mentioned. Have you listened to the commentary track on the DVD with the director, Robert Rusler, and one or two of the other cast members? It's fucking hilarious. I'm pretty sure at least one of them was wasted while recording it.

Soiled Sinema said...

Unfortunately I do not own the DVD so I have yet to listen to the commentary track. I'll make sure to listen to it whenever I got a copy of the dvd.

-Ty E