Like many 10-year-old boys in the early years following Y2K, skateboarding got into my blood. Halcyon days spent outside sliding on curbs and flying off ramps were what awaited me and my friends after school. We all wanted to be the next Tony Hawk.
The dream of two young Australian skateboarders, Tass and Ben Pappas, was to beat ‘Hawk’. All This Mayhem encapsulates the youthful ambitions of the infamous Pappas brothers, whose dreams of becoming the most iconic skateboarders in the world were torn asunder. When competing at the highest level, the brothers became disillusioned, alienated, and eventually exiled due to the corporate sponsored underworld of skateboarding, and a few youthful mistakes sprinkled in for good measure.
Consequently, the audience is hurled with great alacrity into the cyclonic lives of the ill-fated brothers. Both invigorated by the possibilities of what the passion of their lives might bring about for them, their love of skateboarding is at first brimming with promise, but ultimately leads them to corners darker than comprehensible.
The story descends into an adrenaline and drug-fueled disaster for both men, but this is what makes All This Mayhem so compelling to watch. The story itself is conveyed excellently through interviews and narration. Spliced between interviews, the audience is treated to the incredibly broad skills of some of the best skateboarders at the time including the Pappas brothers themselves, Bob Burnquist, Danny Way, and Tony Hawk, in various homemade skateboarding videos and competitions.
The journey of their lives is no different to the stark and sobering ending. The feeling of imminent tragedy is palpable because of the excess in which the pair lived – not only on the skateboard, but off. It’s a tale full of twists and turns – a remarkable story – only imaginable in its assembled form. A tragedy meandering from the gold coast of Australia to the gnarly highs of California and the tenebrous corners of Buenos Aires – it’s a lucid manifestation of childhood dreams reanimated into the impedimenta of nightmares.
Tass Pappas himself declares at the beginning of the film, “There are three sides to every story, there is my side, there is your side…and then there’s the truth,” and it’s because of this that bias noticeably bleeds through, as the film does not feature an interview with the assumed antagonist, Tony Hawk, for whom both brothers developed a bitter rivalry with when they were at the top of the professional ranks, in 1st and 2nd places, respectively. Be that as it may, if the story is shrouded in fantasy, it’s a pulsating and engaging fantasy none-the-less, and to quote John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Vance, “When the Legend becomes fact, print the legend.”