From the splintered skate-parks of Australia to the ESPN-branded ramps of California, Martin travels equally so from the heartlands of Tas and Ben’s upbringing, full of typical adolescent angst and mischief, to the endless supplies of drugs that money, fame and success would hand them. Their talent was unrivalled at competitions across the country and their testing of the limits—both in terms of their skating and their hedonistic lifestyles—propelled them deeper into a world, seemingly, without boundaries. Tas is the protagonist in Martin’s film, with certain shots filmed in prison as he was arrested after “smuggling” drugs into Australia. It was the same crime his brother Ben was convicted of not long prior, and signalled the heart-breaking beginning of the end which led to Ben’s untimely death in 2007.
Perhaps the telling and tragic metaphor from the sport Tas and Ben grew up with was the desire for air: constantly pushing the speed of life to reach higher altitudes as they juggled the politics of celebrity and the bias of commercial sport. The brothers’ fall from grace is handled exquisitely thoughtfully by Martin, in what is a sensitive weaving of narrative, footage and consequence. Producer James Gay-Rees and editor Chris King (who both worked on Exit Through the Gift Shop and Senna), together with George Pank, have lent an expert hand in pulling together some remarkable archival material—often pulled from the garages and basements of veteran skaters—to complete this mini-trilogy of biopics.
It’s without question that the personalities of Tas and Ben are what make the film so absorbing. Whether or not it was their need to lose control, or simply the fact that they did lose it, is open for question throughout. Martin is cautious to make this a non-judgemental documentary; rather it captures the chaos of freewheeling in the most dextrous and immersive ways. It’s hot-blooded, anarchic but also reflective and poised (a lot like its heroes).
All This Mayhem takes a potentially trite topic (sports docs are notoriously overlooked) and twins it with the notion of Icarus-style self-destruction. A cautionary tale for sure, it is also a charismatic, frantic and utterly engrossing adventure into the drop we all face when partying on the summit.