All This Mayhem – Film Review

Riveting documentary takes a journey to the dark side of skateboarding with Tas Pappas

You might not be a fan of skateboarding and you may never have heard of the Pappas brothers, but the story of how two Aussie kids reached the pinnacle of the sport before a sharp descent into the darkness of drugs is riveting, moving and speaks to us all about friendship.

From pulling tricks on their local skate ramp at Prahran Park in early 90s Melbourne to living like rock stars in America, Tas and Ben Pappas were “Bogans” – self-confessed white trash who skated hard and partied harder. Soundtracked by Slayer we see awesome footage of the young brothers pulling seemingly impossible tricks on a vertical ramp while stoned out of their minds on acid as bong smoke drifts past the lens.

Produced by the team behind Exit from the Gift Shop and Senna, Eddie Martin’s documentary draws heavily on the culture of videotaping in street and vert skating and makes extensive use of archive footage shot by Tas and his friends at the time. The chastened thirty-something remembers his rise to stardom and achievements at the X Games (the Olympics of extreme sports) before a jaw-dropping fall from grace. It involved Scarface-esque amounts of cocaine, drug smuggling, prison and a nosedive into depression and psychosis worse than any body slam to the floor when a skateboarding kick-flip goes wrong. It’s a wonder he’s alive to tell the tale.

Though the teenaged brothers briefly conquered all, their abrasive style didn’t wash with the sponsors when the sport hit showbiz paydirt and poster boy Tony Hawk set out on his road to making millions with Playstation game spin-offs. Tas says cuttingly, “Hawk can suck my dick!” remembering a rivalry that he believes didn’t play out fairly. As with Richard Linklater’s Boyhood we watch a path to manhood, but Tas and Ben’s wide-eyed goofy enthusiasm is whittled away by personal tragedy and years of drug abuse. The pair clearly had too much too young and will rightly be remembered as “maniacs” says Tas.

Martin’s film might not always be objective – it skips over accusations the boys’ father may have embezzled money from their skateboard team XYZ – but it’s heartfelt and serves as a cautionary tale. Pappas told NME he’s rebuilding his life and hopes to work as a counsellor to help others through their dark times. “I don’t want to preach but I’d like to help stop somebody making the same mistakes I did.”

Dogtown and the Z Boys (made into feature film Lords of Dogtown starring the late Heath Ledger) charted the origins of skateboarding and All This Mayhem delivers an equally emotional punch. You’ll be reeling from it for weeks.

All This Mayhem is in cinemas now and available to preorder on iTunes

Dan Brightmore