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Tyson
Genre Documentary
Year: 2009
 
Review:

"I'm gonna f**k you till you love me". I can't think of anyone in their right minds, who'd want to trade places with Mike Tyson. The man has carved a little piece of hell for himself over the last four decades... from his childhood days of petty crime in Brownsville to becoming the most infamous heavyweight champion of the world.

Fast, furious and reckless, Mike Tyson stormed the boxing world with a series of first and second round knock-outs making him the most formidable and intimidating opponent ever... despite his funny voice. Now we could harp on about his ear fetish, his face tattoo or what exactly happened in prison, but that would only anger him and let's face it... no one wants to be on his bad side.

Ironically, his fame and money did more damage to Tyson out of the ring, than he could inflict on his opponents in the ring. From an outsider's perspective, abusive relationships, a rape conviction and aggravated assault led Iron Mike to become a first-rate villain and media scapegoat with several outbursts and that brutal interview with ex-wife, Robin Givens. He seemed out-of-control in a downward spiral of drugs, alcohol and promiscuity... it seemed that his animal urges had taken over him for good. 

In Tyson, Iron Mike tells all in a series of original interviews, which are weaved together with sports footage and photographs from his life. It's a biographical confession session, in which Tyson gives his side of the story... wiser, relaxed and sober. He's cleaned up his act and retired from professional boxing, a father to 6 kids. It's no secret, Tyson has done life the hard way without thinking about consequences, pitting himself against the world with his hot head and gut instinct. Tyson isn't about redemption, it's a cathartic public confession in which Tyson is able to unfurl his dark, triumphant, embarrassing and shameful history in various life stages.

Tyson the boy, points to a difficult unsupervised upbringing on the streets, where he resorted to petty crime, taking notes from his promiscuous mother. Hard-living and sentences in Juvenile Hall, made way for the most positive relationship in his life as Tyson the student... when he formed a father-son, teacher-student connection with renowned boxing trainer Cus D'Amato or "Custom Auto". Cus's influence on his life still echoes years on and Tyson's impact on D'Amato is evident from the personal epitaph on his tombstone. "A boy comes to me with a spark of interest and it becomes a flame. I feed the flame and it becomes a fire. I feed the fire and it becomes a roaring blaze."

Tyson channeled his energy into fulfilling the dream as laid out by D'Amato, who thought the world of him... heavyweight champion to be exact. Tyson's radical boxing rise to power shocked the world as his rampant, ferocious boxing technique brought enemies to their knees again and again. He found fame and fortune just as quickly as he married Robin Givens, forming an unstable union of abuse and misfortune on the heels of young love.

After a messy divorce and public relations nightmare, Tyson the rapist was again put in the spotlight with rape charges, leading to Tyson the inmate with three angry years of imprisonment, in which he became a Muslim opting for rebellious tattoos such as Che Guevarra and Mao. Tyson the has-been shows the man as he struggles to reinstate his confidence and passion, eventually stooping to "celebrity" boxing match pay outs. As Tyson the father, we're introduced to a man with deep regrets, who is still troubled by his abusive past but inspired by his children and the future.

It's a fascinating biographical documentary from Tyson's perspective. There's footage of his most glorious and infamous fights, press junket flare-ups and original interviews, which punctuate his series of interviews with Tyson director and friend of 20 years, James Toback. The film seeks to get inside Tyson's mind as he openly discusses everything from his boxing technique to his sexual preferences. Apart from inserts from that Robin Givens interview, there's no opposition... allowing Tyson to speak freely. His frame of mind gives the audience a chance to make their own decisions with regards to nature versus nurture and his emotional stability.

Overall, it seems that Tyson's battle with confidence led him to believe he could do anything. This notion was spurred on by winning the Heavyweight world titles and his intimidation tactics turned him into a complete monster, destroying boxers who were almost always taller than him. A mixture of animal instinct, a hard knock childhood, poor boxing role models, manic paranoia and drug addictions turned him into a raging bull and we all know what happens when you try to corner one.

Tyson is an excellent and comprehensive 85 minute documentary that covers a thrilling boxing career, a devastating public life and a train wreck of an individual. There are one or two issues with tone and bias, as Tyson recites poetry on the beach at one point - but the voice-over cross-overs and incredibly personal story will keep you glued. If you want to know what going to hell and back must feel like... just ask Mike, he's experienced the full spectrum of "celebrity". His recent appearance in The Hangover and this Tyson documentary feature will go a long way to restoring the man's self-respect, as long as he steers clear of fighting and drugs.

The bottom line: Fascinating.

 

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