Thanks to the noughties video game franchise that made Tony Hawk a household name, a lot of people who have never stepped on a board or watched a competition can list a bunch of skateboarding tricks as well as the top riders of the time.
Alongside the eponymous hero, there was Rodney Mullen (the man who reinvented street skateboarding), Bob Burnquist (the Brazilian nutter), Bam Magera (that guy from Jackass who wasn’t Johnny Knoxville), and yeah, loads more, but I digress. Two characters who didn’t feature were Australian vert skaters Tas and Ben Pappas who, in the nineties, were ranked number one and number two in the world while Mr Hawk was third. All This Mayhem is their story, and bladdy hell is it one corker of a tale.
Skateboarding is a sport that lends itself to being obsessively documented so the film has footage of the two brothers from when they pretty much first stepped on a skateboard in their early teens, to their leap in to the world of pro skating in America. Brought up in Melbourne and self-confessed ‘bogans’ – that’s the Australian for rednecks – they were gobby, arrogant and really good on a vert ramp. And by really good, I mean really good.
After competing in a few Australian comps, Tas, the elder of the two brothers, set sail to the US of A to follow his dream and skate in the big leagues. Two years later his then sixteen-year-old brother Ben followed him to join the party. And what a party. Tas seemed to have spent the first two years in America skating while off his face on acid, coke, weed and speed. Pretty impressive in its own right, all things considered. Together through absolute lack of fear and sibling competitiveness, they pushed themselves to the top of the world rankings by the mid-nineties. Despite both having, at times, quite unlikeable character traits, you can forgive them for their arrogance of youth because they were young, lacked guidance, had too much money and were ridiculously talented.
Ben is the softer, personality-wise, of the two brothers, but on their journey to the top they did manage to ruffle quite a few feathers and piss off a whole lot of people with their unwillingness to compromise their love of the sport for money and their rawer than raw attitudes. This, along with their egos and addiction to drugs saw them hitting the self-destruct button pretty early on and pretty damned hard.
The sheer volume and quality of the footage of them from the ‘start’ of their story is amazing and means that you can see it wasn’t all talk about how good they actually were. The only downside is that although frank and honest – it’s narrated by Tas – it doesn’t always feel complete with Tony Hawk portrayed as a bit of a cartoon villain and a couple of questions left unanswered. Saying that, in true Pappas style, it doesn’t shy away from being self-critical and takes you along for the full ride; soaring spins and crippling bails all included.
All This Mayhem is showing at Broadway until Thursday 14 August 2014.
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