|'Enraptured in the world of skating, and with characters who do not support 'going softly' into any endeavour, Tas and Ben's downfall at the hands of drugs, drink, injury and excess is only partially visible'|
If you remember the first of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater videogame series from the late 1990s (and, let's face it, unless you were an actual skater, this is where all of your knowledge of skating comes from), then you'll likely also remember its cast of real life pro skaters; from Hawk himself to Bob Burnqist, Bucky Lasek, Chad Muska and others. Two names are absent from that list however; Tas and Ben Pappas, Australian brothers who, in the mid-nineties, disrupted the already apparently disreputable skating scene with a confrontational style of living and skating. In 1996 Tas beat Hawk to both titles at the Hard Rock Cafe Skateboarding World Championships, beating Hawk not only at the event but on points accumulation for the entire year. So, why haven't you heard of Tas or Ben?
The question is posed subtly by Eddie Martin's All This Mayhem, which reveals the answer in layers, beginning with the Pappas' 'bogan' upbringing and their journeys to the US and professional skating. The story reads, at times, almost like an arcane bit of counter-culture, a glimpse into an underbelly of the skating world you could perhaps be forgiven for knowing nothing about unless you were following skating or the Australian news wires closely during the time period.
As Martin expertly approaches the second half of the film, however, what emerges is a tragedy on a similar scale to this year's Amy. Enraptured in the world of skating, and with characters who do not support 'going softly' into any endeavour, Tas and Ben's downfall at the hands of drugs, drink, injury and excess is only partially visible from a distance by those around them and apparently impossible to slow down. As Tas reflects on the period, clearly partially in sorrow, there's still also a level of glee there to the disruption the brother's caused; the title is a line from him, emphasising the lifestyle Tas and Ben inhabited whilst on the high of the championship. Their downfall though is not all due to their actions and Martin successfully paints Hawk, his friends and the advent of the ESPN-aired X-Games as the moment skating moved away from the underground and characters like Tas and Ben and towards TV-friendly personalities who celebrate with crowds and sponsor videogames.
There is a significant miss-step towards the finale by Martin, who was friends with the Pappas', where another character seems to shoulder an undue amount of blame for events which can only be attributed to someone else within the film. It's a very uncomfortable segment but, given how expertly edited the rest of the film is, it's hard to take the director to task too much. See it knowing as little about the history of the characters as possible. The sense of sadness and waste on the half-pipe is palpable.