'All This Mayhem': Film Review

All This Mayhem Still - H 2014
Courtesy Vice Media Group

All This Mayhem Still - H 2014

No mere sports documentary, this is a tragic tale indeed

Eddie Martin's documentary chronicles the dramatic rise and fall of star skateboarders Tas and Ben Pappas

Few cautionary tales are as vividly rendered as the one in the aptly titled All This Mayhem. Eddie Martin’s engrossing documentary chronicling the dramatic rise and fall of Australian skateboarding champions Tas and Ben Pappas quickly joins the ranks of such noteworthy skatingboarding-themed films as Dogtown and Z-Boys, only the story it has to tell is much more dramatic. Currently being screened in limited engagements throughout the U.S., the film well deserves greater theatrical bookings and is a prime candidate for feature dramatization.

Having honed their skills as teenagers in the suburbs outside Melbourne, the Pappas brothers quickly came to dominate the sport. They eventually made their way to the United States, establishing an intense rivalry with star skateboarder Tony Hawk. By the late 1990s they were ranked as the number one and number two skateboarders in the world.

And then, of course, things began to turn dark, as the immature young men succumbed to the excesses that went hand and hand with their meteoric success. Exemplifying the word “party” as a verb, they freely overindulged in sex, free spending, and so much drug use that one fellow boarder comments in an interview that “there were Scarface levels of cocaine.”

Ben’s career came to an end when he was arrested for attempting to smuggle cocaine—his credit card triggered a high drug reading — and was subsequently barred from competing in the United States. Lapsing into depression and obesity, he was eventually involved in a murder/suicide. Tas, meanwhile, became addicted to crystal meth and alcohol and was sentenced to prison twice, once for spousal abuse and again for drug smuggling.

The film benefits greatly from the wealth of archival footage at the director’s disposal, including thrilling footage of the brothers in their prime skateboarding days; home movies depicting their subsequent behavioral excesses; and past and present interviews with many of the key players involved, including a now repentant Tas who became a born-again Christian while in prison. (Tellingly, Tony Hawk apparently declined to be interviewed for the film.) The footage is superbly assembled by editor Chris King, who delivered similarly stellar work in such previous documentaries as Exit Through the Gift Shop and Senna.

Transcending its specialized sports milieu with its compelling riches to rags tale, All This Mayhem should be required viewing for all young aspiring athletes.

Production: VICE Films, Pank & Martin, Playmaker Films

Director: Eddie Martin

Producers: James Gay-Rees, Eddie Martin, George Pank

Executive producers: Ken Marshall, Eddy Moretti, Rachel Okine, Shane Smith, Jude Troy

Director of photography: Germain McMicking

Editor: Chris King

Composer: Jed Kurzel

No rating, 96 min.