Where do I begin? I suppose the best place is at the end of the 80's, the era which had been dominated by the likes of the Bones Brigade, an era which saw a phenomenal resurgence in skateboarding's popularity. If you weren't there, you just couldn't grasp what it was like, from the hardcore punk thrashers, to the dayglow fashion disasters, it was an insane period of innovation which ended with vert taking a backseat to the newschool of technical street skating.
The world didn't know it yet, but while Gonz and Natas were taking to the handrail with zeal, while Tony Mag and Mike Ternasky had founded a new company, H-Street, which would help pave the way for other skater owned outfits to take over the world, there were two brothers in Australia who had fallen in love with skateboarding...and it was from this love that legend, tragedy and a bitter-sweet triumph would be born.
Their names were Tasou (or Tas as he is better known) and Ben Pappas, two of the most influential vert riders the world had ever seen and they would end up captivating an entire generation with their ability to fly like no others before them.
Now I've sat through my share of skate documentaries and though I have been impressed by one or two, more often than naught, I have walked away with a sour taste in my mouth from my own perception that the subjects of these films tended to be self-aggrandizing while, at the same time, being both unbearably whiney and truly unrepentant as they hid behind a disingenuous facade of humility and laid blame everywhere but themselves...don't expect that with this film!
Many biographical films will try to honey coat reality, take you only so far without showing you what lies just behind the halfway opened door of truth; not so here, the film tells the story of how the Pappas brothers went from being not so typical firebrand Aussie kids to world skateboard champs just before it kicks that door wide open, grabs you brutally by the nape of your neck and drags you into the darkest shadows of the human condition.
The film begins with Tas speaking, you can't see him, but his unmistakable voice is there... when he does appear on camera, you see the visage of a man who has the look of grim determination and years of sorrow etched deeply into his face saying: "There are three sides to a story: your side, my side and the truth.". It is from this moment on the film captivates you and doesn't let go until you are practically in tears from seeing where Tas' journey has taken him so far and where Ben's ended (Note: maybe Ben's journey hasn't exactly ended, watch the film to see what I mean).
Perhaps it's fitting to liken this tale of the Pappas brothers, considering their heritage, to a Greek tragedy of epic proportions, seeing how it takes the viewer from one extreme of emotion to the other. There are few things I can say which wouldn't be construed as spoilers, but I can say this; it's as real as real gets, it's not pretentious, it doesn't try to paint over details, it puts all the cards on the table, in their sometimes hilarious, and often very terrible, forms for all the world to see. There are moments when you look into Tas' eyes and you can see the ache, the deep rooted pain which gnaws at the souls of those who have walked through hellfire and back, those who truly understand what living life is, who have stood on the brink of damnation and looked out into the abyss; it is because of this, "All This Mayhem" stands in a class of its own.
I can't tell you how the documentary ends, I just can't, but suffice to say not only do you find yourself screaming "holy shit! I can't believe he just did that!" and clapping with joy, but also contemplating how the often very difficult path of life truly does come full circle.
I'm compelled to point out that when I watched the movie, I did so with my son. Not only do I want him to know the history of skateboarding, but I wanted him to hear Tas' cautionary tale, I wanted him to learn and there were many moments during the screening where I looked over at my boy, and I could see that he was indeed learning a lesson, and for that I'm grateful to both Tas and Ben.
If you would like to watch if for yourself you can purchase or stream from Apple iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and XBox Video. For theatrical screenings check out the schedule on the official website.