All This Mayhem (2014) [Review]


All This Mayhem is a searing account of what happens when raw talent and extreme personalities collide. In this unflinching, never-before-seen account of drugs and the dark side of professional skateboarding, brothers Tas and Ben Pappas’ intense bond and charisma take them from the pinnacle of their sport into a spiraling world of self-destruction. 

I have been a fan of skateboarding as long as I can remember having satellite TV. The Extreme channel brought skating into my house, and my enthusiasm for it’s growing popularity was only heightened by the fingerboard fad resurgence of the late 90’s, alongside Tony Hawks Pro Skater on the Playstation. I couldn’t skate myself, but I appreciated it as a sport to watch, counting down the months to get Girls infamous Yeah Right! and waiting for the Gravity and X-Games to come around each year.

My knowledge stretched as far as that however, and this documentary from the producers of Senna and Exit Through The Gift Shop (James Gay-Rees & George Pank) had me intrigued from the beginning. Tas & Ben Pappas, two brothers from Australia, both at the top of their game in Vert Skateboarding when it was experiencing it’s boom in popularity, were completely unknown to me. I clearly arrived late to the party on this one, but it struck me as strange that they were not around anymore and why I had not seen them in any THPS games.

The documentary chronicles these self-proclaimed bogans/hillbillies from Australia, as they make their switch from small vert ramps at home to attempt some of the best skate competitions in America. The American Skateboarding Dream. Skaters at the top could be taking home thousands of dollars in competition winnings, not to mention the additional sponsorship deals. We get to see this dream become somewhat of a reality, as the two brothers begin to establish themselves in competitions. Depicted through a series of cleverly compiled sequences demonstrating unrelenting tension, we watch as they slowly rise up from the bottom. While on this journey, they adopted the lifestyle every other teenager/young adult would have done in their situation – living in a house with your friends, having everything you ever wanted, all because you’re earning money to do what you love to do.

Much like the Steve-O‘ doc, there is an impending fall after this rise to success, but the fall in this instance is much, much, harder. I will spare the shocking detail, as there is so much to this tale that I would rather not spoil, but we are provided with an extremely frank and honest look at drug addiction and it’s unfortunate ramifications on young, impressionable stars. The end result is a tragic story, spliced with early archival footage of their rise and interviews with those who witnessed their sudden fall from grace. It is gripping viewing from start to finish.

What perhaps is more interesting though, are the pieces that are not explored fully in the film. Their rivalry with Tony Hawk in competitions that clearly seemed to favour him, their current hatred of the X-Games and all it stands for now, and the relationship they had with their father. These are just a few of the points that were touched upon but never taken any further, and consequently the documentary represents an extremely one-sided view. I can see why some may view this as almost glorifying their fall from grace, and it does seem at times that the drugs are to blame rather than poor personal choices, but I can only assume it was not their intention to do so.

An imbalanced, but highly interesting documentary for anyone to watch, highlighting the fragility of humans when combined with perils of fame and fortune.

Available on iTunes & Amazon Prime

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