Picking up where Stacy Peralta's far more celebratory skateboarding documentary DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS left off, this disturbing profile of skate superstar Mark "Gator" Rogowski serves as a real-life cautionary tale about the disastrous combination of youth and sudden success. At the age of 14, Rogowski, who'd been skating the empty pools and skate parks of Escondido, Calif., was already a star, famous for a flashy vertical style that made him a pioneer in the rebirth of a craze that had petered out in the late 1970s. He was ranked among the likes of Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi, but in addition to talent, Rogowski had something equally important: the perfect image. Rebellious, good-looking and undeniably charismatic, Rogowski embodied the sport's outlaw roots at 1986's Mt. Trashmore contest, he was arrested for punching a cop as well as skateboarding's emergence as a key part of California's burgeoning hardcore subculture. In 1984, he was tapped by up-and-coming Vision Skateboards to represent the company as their top pro, designing and endorsing boards and, later, their clothing line; he also starred in Vision's series of videos that took skate magazines to a whole new level and turned Rogowski into a superstar with a huge income and growing sense of self-importance. Marketed like a rock star, Rogowski also toured like one, traveling the world and performing as part of corporate sponsored extreme sports extravaganzas. And then it all came to an a grinding halt. By the late 1980s, the once-popular vert style was being eclipsed by street skating, and Rogowski, who had already been losing credibility with former fans who wrote him off as a slick corporate sell-out, was left out in the cold. Frustrated, his behavior grew increasingly erratic. Heavy drinking led to violent outbursts and exacerbated what was later diagnosed as bipolar disorder; his bizarre conversion to Christianity alienated whatever friends remained. Then in 1991, at the age of 24, Rogowski brutally attacked, raped and murdered a young woman in an inexplicable rage that left her family devastated and Rogowski's life in ruins. Without letting Rogowski off the hook, filmmaker Helen Stickler intelligently explores the sad tragedy of Rogowski's life through a series of interviews with those who knew him best. As one perceptive interviewee sees it, his was an identity manufactured by a corporation; what do you do when the contract ends and your "face" is gone? It's an old story, but at a time when high-school-aged athletes are wooed away from real-life with staggering, multi-million dollar endorsement deals, it's one that bears repeating.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: NR
- Review: Picking up where Stacy Peralta's far more celebratory skateboarding documentary DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS left off, this disturbing profile of skate superstar Mark "Gator" Rogowski serves as a real-life cautionary tale about the disastrous combination of youth an… (more)