All This Mayhem

In what is shaping up to be a banner year for Australian cinema, this wild and powerful doco has officially stolen the lead.
Tom Clift
Published on July 07, 2014


A thrilling sports film, heartbreaking drama and eye-opening cautionary tale all rolled in to one, All This Mayhem will transcend your expectations of its subject matter. Ostensibly a documentary about the rise and fall of two former skateboarding champions, in execution the Australian-made production bears closer resemblance to (in the words of its director) a modern-day Greek tragedy, full of hubris, temptation and a reckless disregard for long-term consequences.

The larger-than-life characters at the heart of the real world drama are Melbourne-born brothers Tas and Ben Pappas. As kids, the siblings found escape at a skate ramp Prahran, where they quickly gained a reputation as two of the most daring skaters around. As teenagers in the early '90s, they travelled to the United States, where their incredible ability would bring new life to the sport they loved. But with the success came a hard partying lifestyle — and the catalysts for a truly spectacular downfall.

Director Eddie Martin uncovers an incredible wealth of footage, drawing on old home movies and DIY skate vids to glossy tournament coverage broadcast on ESPN. Through this mix of high- and low-res video, we watch the Australian duo turn the flagging world of skateboarding on its head. No matter your level of interest in the sport, it's difficult not to be wowed by the aerial acrobatics on display. Moreover, Martin demonstrates a natural flair for narrative, honing in on the bitter rivalry between Tas and Tony Hawk as a means to sucking non-fans into the drama.

But as any skater would tell you, what goes up must eventually come down. So as the film moves into its second half, the sense of exhilaration is replaced by feelings of horror and despair. In an extended present-day interview, a rueful Tas speaks with devastating candour about the decisions that ultimately ripped apart his life. At the same time, the absence of any recent footage of Ben makes it clear that something is terribly amiss.

Rarely does a movie, documentary or otherwise, make you care so deeply about its characters. It's for that reason that All This Mayhem is as emotionally wrenching as it is. In what is shaping up to be a banner year for Australian cinema, this wild and powerful doco has officially stolen the lead.


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