Before seeing this film, I thought I knew everything about Mike Tyson. I'm not a boxing fan, but you'd have to be living under a rock to be unaware of him and his many notorious actions, all of which are explored in the new documentary, Tyson, but let me tell you now, I didn't know the half of him.
The movie follows Mike Tyson through his rise and fall in the boxing world, his incarceration for an alleged rape, his marriage and divorce, and more infamous moments like the biting of Evander Holyfield's ear. What's surprising is that Tyson is a multi layered person, a man of considerable depth that we can't even being to understand.
Growing up in a bad neighborhood, where crime was prevalent and where he was frequently robbed, he took interest in fighting and turned his life around, disciplining himself with the help of his trainers before becoming the heavyweight champion of the world. Mixing archival footage with new interviews with Tyson, the film puts context to his past and helps us understand what he had to go through to be where he is today.
Tyson is shocking on many levels. It shocks you in detailing some of the problems the man has faced, but it also shocks you to see Mike Tyson, a man famous for his rage and anger, choke back tears and spill his soul, explaining the mindset behind his sometimes violent actions.
When many think of Tyson, they think of the Evander Holyfield fight, succumbing to the idea that Tyson was simply crazy and had a bloodlust when he decided to bite his ear not once, but twice. But there's more to it. With help from footage of the fight, Tyson explains that throughout it, Holyfield was head butting him, attacks that he felt were intentional, so he did it out of frustration and because of his desire to inflict as much pain on the man as possible.
And this is why the film works. We all claim to know Mike Tyson, but none of us really do. This scene, along with many others, puts a framework to his person and we end up learning a lot about him, maybe even more than we wanted to. But it helps us build a connection with him and pity him as he explains the hardships he had to go through.
Throughout the film, Tyson tries to keep his tough guy demeanor, despite detailing emotional times and attempting to hold back his tears, but near the end, he describes his children with a smile on his face, obviously proud of them. In this moment, his whole persona flips upside down and shows the loving father inside of him. It's here that we begin to truly understand Mike Tyson. A man who could walk into the ring and stare down his opponent, sensing fear and knowing he had already won the fight is now a man who stares at his children with love and admiration, hoping to keep them from making the same mistakes he did growing up. You begin to feel that Tyson has truly evolved emotionally and found a peaceful place in his life where he is happy.
With that said, Tyson runs into some pitfalls that prevent it from becoming the next great documentary. In a film about a person who is still alive, you expect most of the interviews to revolve around him. It only makes sense. But here, the filmmakers only interviewed Tyson. At one point, he talks negatively about Don King and his money grubbing ways. It would have been interesting to hear King's perspective at this point, but you never get that side of the story. Yes, it's Tyson's movie, but there must be more to his story than what he can recall.
At times, the style of the movie became a distraction, with multiple frames popping up and expanding across the screen constantly. It even sounded like the filmmakers asked Tyson to repeat what he had said so they could cut different clips together, changing his tone in the middle of his sentences. It was unnecessary and cumbersome.
Tyson is by no means a must see film, but rarely do you see such a strong man act so timid and broken. It's with this that Tyson pulls you through to the end.
Tyson receives 3.5/5