Friday, April 24, 2009

Review: "Tyson"

To be quite honest, I do not like sports, I especially do not like boxing, and I know very little about either.

I knew even less about Mike Tyson before seeing James Toback's new documentary, Tyson. I knew he was a boxer, I knew he had a bad reputation, and I knew he bit Evander Holyfield's ear. But that's about it.

So I was surprised, nay shocked, and how engrossing I found Tyson to be.

It turns out Mike Tyson is not the man I expected him to be, and I suspect that will be the case for a great number of people who see this film.

Tyson is the man in his own words. It opens with Tyson sitting on a couch, talking about his life. And that is pretty much the whole film. But it turns out he is a surprisingly eloquent and self-aware speaker, one who has come a long way from his troubled youth to become a much wiser, more mature man.

Tyson takes us on a journey from his hard scrabble childhood to his discovery as a boxer while in a juvenile detention center. His roots obviously mean a lot to him, as he even allows himself to cry at the memory of his late trainer, Cus D'Amato, who eventually became his legal guardian. Quickly rising through the ranks of professional boxing, Tyson made a name for himself with his trademark speed and agility, eventually becoming the youngest heavyweight champion ever in 1986 at the age of 20.

But his cocky nature and wild ways eventually get him in trouble with the law, eventually finding himself convicted of raping Desiree Washington, a Miss Black America Contestant, and is sentenced to ten years in prison. This is where Tyson's insight into his own life become really fascinating. Still declaring his innocence, Tyson rails against Washington, showing an old wound that has still yet to heal.

That is the trademark of the film as a whole. Tyson is remarkably raw and candid, displaying the maturity of man who recognizes and understands his mistakes, and isn't afraid to admit them. Toback has pulled some surprisingly intimate details from Tyson, getting him to open up in ways I would have never expected. Tyson, now a father, seems to have mellowed, but he hasn't lost that certain spark in his eye. He's still has the same tough spirit he's always had, but it has become more tempered with restraint gained from a greater insight into life.

Tyson the film is a raw, riveting portrait of the rise and fall of a superstar as seen through his own eyes. It is a rare glimpse into the psyche of a living legend, an infamous bad boy who has opened up about his life in astonishing ways. Tyson shocks and surprises at every turn, and may redefine how a nation views one of its most infamous sports figures.

GRADE - ★★★½ (out of four)

TYSON; Directed by James Toback; Rated R for language including sexual references; Opens today in select cities.

3 comments:

Dorothy Porker said...

I'm actually kind of a boxing fan, so I'm looking forward to this. Another recent boxing docu I saw is HBO's "Thrilla in Manila" which is surprisingly engrossing. The effect this bout had on Ali and Frazier (both physically and emotionally) is a testament to the very worst aspects of this admittedly violent sport.

Matthew Lucas said...

Hi Dorothy, thanks for stopping by!

I've never been a big sports fan, but I've found that I've enjoyed several films about boxing - "Raging Bull," "Million Dollar Baby," and now this. And of course "The Wrestler" is a very similar sport.

If you already like boxing, you'll probably find this fascinating.

Dorothy Porker said...

There is just so much drama to the sport, and the regimen these men go through in preparation is impressive. Interestingly enough, I just saw "Frost/Nixon" and found it to definitely fit in under the "boxing" genre in some weird way ;)

But yeah, I'll be checking out "Tyson" most definitely and quite soon (I hope!).