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All This Mayhem


Stars: Ben Pappas, Tommy Caudill

Director: Eddie Martin

The best marker of a good documentary movie is that it holds your attention even when its subject at first appears to be of no interest.

I cannot pretend that prior to seeing Eddie Martin’s film I had even the slightest interest in skateboarding. I simply assumed that for neophytes and non-nerds that the repetitive “Up and down on a U-shaped concrete slope, twirl in mid-air and then down again, all too often on your face” was all there was to skateboarding, unless you were an obsessive.

Martin proved me wrong with his vivid and involving story of the rise and fall of Australian brothers Tas and Ben Pappas who escaped from their harsh lives in the Melbourne slum of St Albans to become legendary skateboarding champions in their own country and, even more impressively, in the United States where they reached the heights before their innate self-destructive natures, enlarged by drugs, finally brought them down...

The key characters are fascinatingly flawed and the real-life story with its ingredients of bitter feuding, drugs, murder and criminal activities could easily have served for any number of fame-focused B feature melodrama. That it is a true story largely recreated from reams of real-life footage following the brothers from an early age and held together in a major way by Tas Pappas addressing the camera makes it even more interesting.

Tas Pappas' remark "there’s three sides to every story: my side, your side and the truth” is as good a guide as any as to the story, the whole story and nothing but the story.

Perhaps, for me, the most noteworthy aspect is that director Martin, who sums up his approach to All this Mayhem with “the story of the Pappas brothers is highly engaging, so much so that I wanted the documentary to play like a narrative film” was also responsible for the pretentious Exit Through the Gift Shop a movie that, like its subject the ‘iconic’ street artist Banksy, was predictably overrated and considerably more embarrassing than significant.

Alan Frank

UK/Australia 2014. UK Distributor: Koch Media. Colour.
104 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 3, Swearing 3.

Review date: 08 Aug 2014