By Jack Rico
Rated: R for language including sexual references.
Release Date: 2009-04-24
Starring: James Toback
Official Website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/tyson/
‘Tyson’ is an insightful biopic on arguably the greatest heavyweight boxer who ever lived. If you were a witness to his tumultuous personal and professional boxing career, this documentary clears up all, if not many of the rumors and debauchery he became notorious for: the biting of Evander Holyfield’s ear, the rape charges and the Don King attack to mention a few.
Indie director James Toback directs this portrait of ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson where he manages to extract, without inhibition, information about his womanizing, alcohol and drug addiction, bouts of mental instability, and criminal activity in great detail. Through a mixture of original interviews and archival footage and photographs, the film ranges from Tyson’s earliest memories of growing up on the mean streets of Brooklyn through his entry into the world of boxing, to his rollercoaster ride of worldwide fame and fortunes won and lost.
You might be surprised with the Tyson who narrates this movie. He is different from the monster built up and torn down by the media during the ’80s and ’90s. Age often brings perspective, and that would seem to be the case here. His explanations and views of the mischievous events of his dark days might not satisfy you, but what you have to appreciate is the sincerity and surrendering that Toback manages to withdraw from a man known to have a volatile and fractured mind. In terms of visual stylistics, there is a film quality that Toback directs with in contrast to the sensationalistic and over-dramatized VH-1 show ‘Behind the Music’ or Barbara Walters’ special interviews where the questions are crafted to draw tears from the interviewees. Here it is just you and him.
There are some scenes with heavy language so I wouldn’t suggest bringing children to see it. If in fact ‘Tyson’ is a spin free of publicist intervention documentary, it is a remarkable look inside the mind of a ‘killing machine’ who became a docile beast ready to welcome peace within himself. If you are a fan, you’ll enjoy it and if you’re not, it’s one informative retrospective at a living boxing legend.