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Review: Tyson (2009)

Tyson (2009)

Directed by: James Toback

Premise: A documentary about former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson.

What Works: Tyson is a fascinating look at the former boxer’s life. With his tattooed face, fierce reputation, and criminal background, Mike Tyson ought to come across as a mere thug, but the film reveals a man who has gained some perspective on his life and his story is ultimately a tragedy of too much fame and not enough love. Tyson is not an educated man but he has clearly reached a point of self awareness many people never reach, even if he struggles at times to articulate it, and the film capitalizes on that, allowing Tyson the time and space to present a complete picture of himself. Tyson narrates the film, speaking about his life, and his stories about juvenile delinquency and his relationships with people like trainer Cus D’Amato and promoter Don King have a raw energy about them. Tyson breaks into soliloquies or poems about himself and these are extremely revelatory about the man. The film is able to further the power of the speeches by fragmenting the sound and the image, making the underlying disorder of Tyson’s life literal on the screen.

What Doesn’t: We primarily hear things only from Tyson’s point of view. The point of the film is to give the man a chance to explain himself, but the film might have been strengthened by some external voices.

DVD extras: Commentary track, featurettes, premiere footage.

Bottom Line: Tyson is a terrific documentary. It is more about the man than about the sport that made him famous, but Mike Tyson’s frankness and the thoughtful assembly of the film makes it an impressive piece.

Episode: #265 (November 15, 2009)