Published Mar 17, 2015The best sports documentaries aren't just about a single athlete, team, or event, but the emotions and relationships behind them. Australian documentary All This Mayhem succeeds on both fronts by shedding light on the unexpected rise of two of the skateboard world's biggest (and oft-forgotten) vert riders, while spending equal amounts of time dissecting their biggest feats and the society and culture that brought them to their downfall.
All This Mayhem is centered on Tas and Ben Pappas, two brothers born in a troubled Australian household that emerged from half-pipe skating's dying scene in the early '90s and captured the world's imagination in the X-Games, Gravity Games and European contest circuit alike with their respective no holds-barred attitudes (eldest sibling Tas, the more determined of the pair) and natural abilities on the board (Ben, a more nuanced and technically proficient skater).
Longtime skaters will find the film most exciting when it focuses on a few of the pair's most well-known athletic accomplishments — including worldwide titles, Tas' career-defining video part (which, as Tas admits in a talking head segment, was recorded almost entirely while on LSD) and attempts at the 900° — but for casual participants and documentary film buffs, the strength of All This Mayhem lies in the love it shows between the two brothers, even in times of hardship (both dealt with legal problems throughout their professional careers due to rampant drug use, with Ben's addiction taking a nasty turn in the film's latter half).
On top of that, the film offers a pointed critique of modern professional skateboarding, especially its corporate involvement and how Tony Hawk and the Boom Boom HuckJam camp nearly brought the sport to its knees with their circus theatrics and lack of edge. (This is definitely the first film to talk about the Birdman in a negative light, a truly courageous decision considering how sacred he is to the sport.)
In a market documented by puff pieces (I'm looking at you, Jacob Rosenberg's Waiting for Lightning and Street League's The Motivation), All This Mayhem is a refreshing feature for those interested in skateboarding and its convoluted history, and for hardcore enthusiasts, it's a downright revelatory experience.