When I first put the Slammed DVD into my player, it was exactly what I expected. A series of spills, falls, crashes and slams all set to highly charged, aggressive-as-all-fuck songs, kind of what you would expect a music video from hell to look like. I sat back and watched these nameless, faceless bodies hurling themselves into the literal void and paying the price for it time and again, that is until something interesting happened. It seems that the people that put Slammed together had a greater purpose in mind than to just show the "highlights" of these extreme sports, so to speak.
Once the first song ended and the next one began, the focus shifted a bit from all of these anonymous collisions and injuries, and we settle on professional Skateboarder Kristain Svitak. He relates one of his more gruesome slams to us, from an incident skating a stairway in Los Angeles. In a very interesting and slightly disturbing twist, we then move from his narration to seeing video of the actual slam itself. To say that having him relate this painful story and then witnessing it made me cringe is putting it lightly. To see this twenty-something young man talk about the events of that day, how his skate wheel caught the edge of a concrete stairway sending him plummeting face first 15 feet to the sidewalk gives us an emotional connection to him. So that when we witness the fall and see his mouth connect directly with the ground made me instinctively bring my hand to my own mouth, making sure all my teeth were still in place.
Slammed is more about the psychology of the slam, how these athletes (after seeing this video, there is no doubt in my mind that these people are athletes) push themselves again and again, even after doing their bodies great deals of damage until they nail that move or trick that is going to give them the edge over their competition. Covering the worlds of Skating, Surfing, Snowboarding, BMX and Motorcross gives the filmmakers the opportunity to show that Pain is Universal, which also happens to be the subscript to the title of the work. Again and again we're shown footage, montages of various Skaters, Surfers, Boarders, etc. wiping out, or biting it, but it's when we're faced with the victims, no, not victims, but victors… the ones who took the slam and then came back stronger than before, that the film is most effective.
The two best interviews, besides Svitak's, come from BMX Superstar, Rick Thorne, and Motorcross Rider, Tyler "The Dead" King. Thorne is very intelligent and well spoken, he is proud of his stature in the BMX world and knows how hard he had to work to get there. He has legions of fans, as witnessed by several of his appearances at the X Games and Gravity Games, as well as BMX competitions all over the world. However, when he begins to list and display all of his injuries, both superficial and truly debilitating, does the full extent of his passion reveals itself. He's only in his 30's but reads off a list of injuries like that of a Ninety-year-old man. He's broken his ankle, which required screws and a metal plate to fix, had four knee surgeries, tore his scrotum and had to have his testicles stitched back together, knocked out his front teeth for which he wears a partial denture, fractured his face and skull, deviating his septum and requiring several plates and screws in his face. Yet, even after all of that, he still spreads a positive message about riding and tells us that if you can accept the Pain, than one day you could be as great as him.
Tyler "The Dead" King is no less a positive voice in the world of Motorcross, than Thorne is for BMX. However, "The Dead King" has an even more harrowing tale of triumph over tragedy since he was officially declared dead on July 22, 1996 after a devastating accident. He was in a qualifying heat and tripled over another rider only to be pitched forward and land head first into the lip of the next jump. With the bike right behind him, crushing his body further into the face of the jump. He didn't break a single bone, but ended up losing over sixty percent of his liver, ripping an artery out of his heart, lost his spleen, his gall bladder and all of his original blood cells. Since there were no external injuries, paramedics kept him in the ambulance for a good twenty minutes before going to a hospital. Still, that was only after an off-duty nurse begged them to take him after recognizing he was suffering from internal hemorrhaging. His surgery cost close to a million dollars and took him just over three months of recovery. Feeling that his death has allowed him to tap into his spiritual side, he says that there is no longer any fear when he is riding, since after death what's even left to be afraid of?
Picture: The majority of the movie is presented in a Full Frame Aspect Ratio, but since much of the material comes from several different sources there are some letterboxed moments as well. The movie looks great, but as I said, the material comes from several different sources which means that quality varies from segment to segment. Overall, this is a very nice looking, well crafted doc.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track sounds great. The soundtrack, as can probably be expected, is hard hitting and aggressive, much like the sports compiled on this disc.
Extras: Included as Extras on this DVD are several Bonus Slams, Outtakes and Bloopers, a Photo Gallery and Previews for other Hart Sharp Video Releases. The nicest Extra to come with this DVD is a CD of the movie's Soundtrack. Featuring 19 songs by Aggro and Hardcore artists on the Trustkill Record Label, it's a great Bonus and one which I wish more DVD's would include.
Conclusion: While not for everyone, this DVD really goes above and beyond with it's portrayal of Extreme Athletes as intelligent, passionate, driven people. They fall down (a lot) and get right back up until they are the best at what they do. There's a lot of real trauma on this disc, blood, scars and pain, but it's what lies beyond the physical that truly takes center stage. Getting into the minds of these daredevils is a once in a lifetime trip and one that I was glad to have made.