SXSW 2022: Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off

Directed by: Sam Jones
Distributed by: HBO Films

Written by Taylor Baker


There are few athletes that encapsulate and embody their respective sports. Straddling the line between excellence in competition and existing as pop culture figures that define aspects of their era. Individuals like Lance Armstrong, Venus and Serena (Williams), Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, etc. Tony Hawk is one of these few that has simultaneously become as household a name as Clorox or Band-Aid’s and as intergenerational as any modern era athlete. In the opening moments of “Until the Wheels Fall Off” we see Tony attempting to land a 900. He crashes. Then he tries again and crashes. Again he tries, again he crashes, and again he crashes. He yells in frustration, collects his 50 something body up from the wooden vertical ramp, and shuffles back up the metal stairs to try again. This look at Tony accentuates his persistence without idealizing or avoiding his negative traits. The first forty or so minutes of “Until the Wheels Fall Off” underlines just how shitty of a kid he was for his mother to deal with. Sharing this relatively unknown side of his personality and story not only characterizes Tony as a fallible man but has the assuring quality to the viewer that this isn’t just another self-promotional documentary. This is his story, abridged as it is, we can trust that it will include most of the bad with the good.

Examining his tumultuous relationship with his father, women, fame, and his physical health. In one moment Tony is showing humility and kindness to Duane Peters who’d bullied him for years and in the next is asking his father to stay away from him in public during competitions. Hawk, like all of us, is a human capable of grace and selfishness. Assembled from archival footage layered and interlaced with interviews and appearances from his contemporaries, family, and Stacy Peralta(who recruited Tony Hawk to the Bones Brigade). Despite its self-serving nature the questions they answer and reflect upon don’t do Tony any favors. And it’s in the assembly and editing that Jones’s film is elevated from a run-of-the-mill paint by numbers documentary to something sincere if not all that artistic. Lacking any real weak points and interspersed with lots of neat skate videos, Sam Jones has come out of the woodwork as a self-assured documentarian who lets his subject and the relationships that subject has had speak in a quality that his contemporaries rarely reach. “Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off” might not reinvent the wheel but it does help you feel closer to an icon without rose coloring his past, present, or future.

“Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off” Trailer

“Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off” was screened as part of the 2022 edition of the SXSW Film Festival & begins streaming on HBO Max on April 5th.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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