“Why the hell would I want to watch a documentary about two Australian vert skaters?”
That thought likely popped into many people’s heads when told they should watch All This Mayhem, the Tas and Ben Pappas documentary that was released last month.
“No dude, it’s really crazy, watch it.”
Considering there is already a documentary about Gator and the surfboard bag, how much more “crazy” could a skate documentary get, especially to elevate it beyond what we expect in an Epicly Later’d or a similar straight-to-web series of shorts?
In assessing the horrible P.R. behind Australians visiting New York (see point B), a frequent gripe — mostly from those who work in hospitality or nightlife industries — is their love of cocaine. Cocaine is believed to be a major source of awful Australian behavior on American soil because of its availability, not to mention low price when converted against our weak dollar. (Couple a drug that makes people annoying by-design, with the rambunctiousness of partying with play-money, and you have an eight-million person city at odds with a 23-million person continent.) Perhaps these were only problems to DJs annoyed at being covered in spit particles during the night’s third “Shake It Off” request, spoken in an accent rendered undecipherable by a half-dozen drinks, but after watching this “crazy” documentary, maybe Australians really do love cocaine that much ;)
If it’s possible to go into All This Mayhem fresh, without any knowledge of the story aside from a vague recollection of Ben and Tas’ names from the peak X-Games era, you’ll get the most out of the film’s “holy shit” factor. Coming from a generation that invented “the vert button,” this should not be difficult.
The “craziness” goes well above the typical move to California, find success out of sheer talent, start doing drugs, and everything unravels from there -arc. What begins as lighthearted filming an entire video part on acid, turns into recreational kilos being kept at the house, molotov cocktails, international drug smuggling, jail sentences and bodies found in the river. We also learn why the Australian-based Globe shoes’ nineties models were so bulky. (If you guessed so that they could be used to smuggle cocaine, you guessed right.)
Skate documentaries typically get made because they’re either: 1) Company-sponsored puff pieces, or 2) There is something genuinely different about the story they tell. Beyond the partying, which has become a standard bump in the road for feature-length skate docs, All This Mayhem‘s main and most interesting crux is just how much the brothers hated Tony Hawk. The film does quite a bit to rewrite our perception of the guy whose name and video game inspired many twenty-something skaters of today to pick up a skateboard in the first place.
Tas and Ben saw Hawk as an outdated, whiney, safe face anointed by ESPN to propel and market skateboarding deeper into the mainstream, as opposed to someone who was progressing their craft. They were objectively “better” because they were among the first to bring flip tricks to vert, while Hawk’s “old man” contest oeuvre is hilariously described as “540, 540, 540.” The narrative takes a 30 For 30 Duke v.s. Michigan-angle of “You’re not supposed to be the face of this thing we control” — something not really expected in skateboarding, even on a competitive level. We all think of skate contests as a disposable spectacles, but it’s tough not to consider the long-term cultural/monetary effects of Tas being prohibited from trying the most recognizable, brand-name skateboard trick on national TV, while Hawk was given infinite time.
All This Mayhem has the same producer as Exit Through the Giftshop, another film where a hyper-specific subject matter is enjoyed by everyone regardless of whether they care about street art or not. You could be a life-long vert button user, and still bask in the cynicism (as if it needed any more) that the film throws towards mediated skateboarding and its ascent as a televised sport. If not, then you’re sure to get a kick out of two Australian vert skaters doing the worst Boston George homages in commercial aviation history.
Previous Skate Doc Reviews: This Ain’t California, Waiting For Lightning
Related: Here is Frozen in Carbonite on All This Mayhem