‘Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off’ Review: Shred Until Shredded

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The professional skateboarder Tony Hawk is revered for his indefatigability and inventiveness: He’s originated over 100 skateboard tricks, according to “Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off,” a new documentary about his bumpy rise to fame. In interview footage in this movie, directed by Sam Jones, Hawk also seems an amiable enough fellow.

For better or worse, “Until the Wheels Fall Off” best captures the real Hawk when Jones and his crew film him skateboarding on ramps, indoor and outdoor, repeating moves for what can seem like an eternity and picking himself up every time he wipes out.

Jones, whose first feature was an uncomfortably intimate documentary on the band Wilco (“I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” in 2002), opens the movie with segments of Hawk practicing and then shifts to a more conventional mode. He chronicles Hawk’s 1970s California boyhood and how he fell in with the so-called Bones Brigade, a cadre of skateboarders led by the sport’s pioneer, Stacy Peralta (who has himself become a superb documentarian).

Contemporary interviews with Hawk’s peers reveal a grizzled bunch recalling glory days and subsequent declines into obscurity. Hawk, now 53, went from being a teen star to an odd-job-seeking young man. The creation of the X Games gave Hawk a renaissance, and he made the most of it. Too much, he admits. Fame is “the worst drug,” he reflects.

More than a portrait of an individual athlete, the film develops into a mildly terrifying portrait of compulsion. Although officially retired, Hawk can’t stop. His skating friends and rivals talk of having damaged their bodies so severely that they can’t sleep at night for the pain. (The phrase “until the wheels fall off” comes not from Hawk but from the professional skateboarder Rodney Mullen.)

While Hawk is depicted as a far more responsible adult now than he’s ever been, Peralta (for one) still believes the superstar needs a talking to about his relentless self-pummeling. In fact, last month, on the eve of HBO releasing a trailer for this film, Hawk broke his femur when he missed the landing on a trick called the McTwist — a “strange irony,” he said on Instagram.

Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off
Not rated. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes. Watch on HBO platforms.



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