During the 1990s, two controversial brothers from Australia burst onto the skateboarding world stage. At their peak they were seeded number one and two in the world but dealing with fame, wealth and bloated egos at such a young age lead to their downfall. All This Mayhem, made up of the footage captured by the brothers and their buddies during their passionate and rebellious skating years, as well as interviews with ex-skaters and friends of the duo, is certainly an interesting film but its style is somewhat annoying. There are moments where your eyes grow tired of arching up and down; following countless skaters back and forth across the half pipe. Still, it remains a powerful documentary that grows unexpectedly dark in its second half. The first hour is slightly stretched. We follow the Pappas brothers from the skate parks of Australia, where they find escapism from their disruptive childhoods, to the packed stadiums of the World Championships in America, where they find arrogance and confrontation. The film’s biggest mistake is in trying to paint Tony Hawk as a villain. Despite the brothers’ rivalry with Hawk and their disapproval of the commercial world of skating within which Hawk is a central figure, their moaning just seems bratty. The bottom line is that Hawk was a business man stood next to two brothers who were too young and high to really appreciate their opportunities. Sadly, the film is too biased and bitter to give us a trustworthy account of certain events. Still, Hawk represents the materialistic corruption of skate-boarding and the brothers do capture a certain spirit that, since their reign, seems to have been lost from the sport. The film’s second half opens up into a captivating tale regarding Tas and Ben Pappas’ descent into drugs and disillusion.
All This Mayhem makes great use of the old-school video footage but it all seems a little bit too grimy and irritating. These sequences are counteracted by the high resolution talking heads and the two styles don’t sit well together, creating a clunky and disjointed aesthetic from start to finish. Still, the film’s subject matter and pace remains strong as we travels down some very disturbing avenues. All This Mayhem is not a celebration of skating but a celebration of what skating meant to the individual during a specific period. In the opening minutes of the film one young skater films his friends and asks them why they skate. The film also demonstrates the dangers of hardcore drug taking and the power it can have over those not in a safe state of mind. As the film draws near to its end one of the brothers delivers a heartbreaking line, stating that the drugs that came with their skating success lead them to the lives that they originally tried to escape from, through skating. Once upon a time, two young boys skated to stay out of trouble and All This Mayhem is the tragic story of how their talents eventually lead to the disaster they so desperately wanted to avoid initially. In the film’s second half skateboarding becomes less of a focus and it becomes a deeper documentary because of this. With skateboarding now a fainter presence, the film-makers manage to get into the film’s underlying issues surrounding the nature vs. nurture debate and whether we make our own fate or, as it seems it was for the Pappas brothers, is our fate sealed from the get go? All in all, All This Mayhem looks a little too grungy but has a powerful story at its heart that stops its main characters, about whom there is very little to like, from detracting from what it has to say about the danger of drugs in the hands of the naive and deluded.
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