The story of Greek-Australian skateboarding brothers Ben and Tas Pappas isn’t pretty. From a poor background in Melbourne, these close-knit siblings were already competing in the US as teens and by the mid-1990s were the world’s top vertical skateboarders – the sweary, dishevelled, druggy opposite of the scene’s clean-cut, sponsor-friendly star, Tony Hawk. But it was all downhill from there, and this gloomy but compelling doc recounts how they were overwhelmed by their success and flawed personalities, to tragic ends.
Two things give the film an edge over other rags-to-riches-to-rags sporting stories: the wealth of home-video footage available (remember, skaters love to film themselves and other boarders) and the frank and impish presence of Tas Pappas. It would have been helpful to know more about the family background that left these talented, driven brothers so adrift in the world so young, but the film is especially sharp on how the skating establishment and its backers had little time for these outsiders whose unruliness was all too real.