Mike Tyson sits down on a sofa with cameras all around him and talks in a very long, seemingly uninterrupted, unquestioned, and unchallenged monologue about his favorite subject: himself.
I was never a fan of Tyson. I was never even a fan of boxing. I think it's a violent sport. A game where one person has to intentionally hurt and inflict pain on another is brutal and shouldn't be celebrated.
That being said, Tyson is an interesting character. Yes, he's an amazing athlete, but, by his own admission, he's a crazed, savage animal. He's strong, fast and got quick knockouts. It's incredible how he was able to become a world heavyweight champion at such a young age. Given his origins and loss of proper guidance, his burnout and steep fall from grace was inevitable.
The guy has a stranger voice than me. He's probably intelligent, but it's hard to tell by the way he speaks. He came from a broken home and broken streets. He has an emotionally damaged, arrested development that's protected by a thuggish swagger propped up with a physical prowess that made him at one point very dangerous.
If Tyson was asked to talk about himself and his insane life, one would hope he would offer us insight and possibly an answer as to why he did the insane things he did. Yet, despite all his stumbled-over big words, Tyson hardly advances the conversation.
We don't learn anything new from him. There was a fictionalized movie made about Tyson a few years ago. Actor Michael Jai White played the bothered boxing star and gave us more nuances into Tyson's character than the real thing does here.
One would hope to get more information from the real thing, but we don't. Tyson doesn't really reveal anything that hasn't already been gathered and reported in the media. It could be that there isn't anything more to say or there's nothing new to learn. The question then becomes: why make this movie?
After the movie was over, a man sitting in front of me in the theater asked me if I felt sorry for Tyson. I told him no, and wondered why I should. There's a moment in the film when Tyson cries over losing his close, trusted and beloved mentor, Cus D'amato. You see that D'amato's death seriously affected Tyson.
D'amato was like a father figure to the up-and-coming fighter. Considering all that D'amato did for Tyson, I can say that I was empathetic. But that empathy was quickly lost after Tyson admitted to cheating on his wife and biting the ear twice of a competitor in the ring. Not to mention, he was convicted of rape!
Tyson claims he didn't do it. He claims to be innocent. The question then remains: what really happened? Tyson doesn't say. He brushes over it. He doesn't even mention the alleged rape victim's name. He claims it was all a lie or a setup. Yet, he wouldn't give us details. He doesn't bother to give us his side of the story. He skips over it.
What makes matters worse is that filmmaker James Toback doesn't offer us the other side. What did the police report or the court transcripts say? I'm not even sure Toback asked Tyson any questions at all. Toback just let Tyson filibuster, allowing Tyson to create whatever narrative he wanted, to make himself look like the victim or the one for whom we should feel sorry.
Tyson also brushes over his eight-month marriage to Robin Givens. She accused him of abuse, which he again doesn't address. Again, he calls the woman the liar. He did admit to committing adultery, but there were bigger things going on that he blatantly ignored. He was allegedly a wife-beater and Toback makes no mention of it. He lets it slide.
Tyson bites the ears of not one but two men, and the only explanation is that he was angry over losing a fight. Do we hear from Evander Holyfield or Lennox Lewis? No! Toback doesn't offer their points of view.
But of course, we might not cry or feel sorry for Tyson if other points of view were introduced. We might not be inclined to empathize with the wife-beating, ear-biting rapist. It would cast too much of a shadow on the redemptive, loving father image he'd rather portray.
Yes, Toback was the director but Tyson was the one in control of this movie, and Tyson's not interested in facts. All he wants is to try to spin his image into something more positive. I understand that many documentaries nowadays do that. They spin ideas and images into something to suit the filmmaker's agenda, but a narrow objective like this can't be appreciated.
I have to give it to Tyson. He's such a wordsmith, such a grand and articulate storyteller. LOL. Toback uses the technique of layering his audio tracks so that words and sentences are running together blending so that at times it just seems like babble.
This technique, I suppose, is meant to convey the manic, over-lapping thoughts that plague Tyson. Good idea but it was too frustrating. Given Tyson already has a kind of speech impediment; blurring his words only gave me a further headache.
I did find it interesting that Tyson was a shy kid who didn't trust people. His paranoia grew over time, but he admits he was bullied as a child. The result was he became a bully himself. It would almost be ironic, if it weren't so predictable.