Director: James Toback
Actor: Mike Tyson
The best example I can come up with of a film that builds up your affection for the characters you’re watching, only to completely break it all down, is Goodfellas. It does it so masterfully that you don’t even care that the characters you’re rooting for are really amoral and intensely bad people. Hollywood, like many other film industries, likes to root for the bad guys. It likes to root for the underdog, and it likes drama.
And Mike Tyson delivered all of that.
This documentary chronicles the life of Mike Tyson, narrated by Mike Tyson in his now almost iconic, high-pitched, rambling, ranting way. It starts with him talking about his childhood, about the crimes and the drugs and the juvenile detention centers. How he found boxing and how he was taken in by his first trainer, Cus D’Amato. How he lived in his house, was trained by him, in both the mental as well as the physical art of fighting. D’Amato was everything to him, the very first person to ever make him believe in himself. The way Tyson talks about him is very moving, very touching. Very honest. I guess that’s the prevailing sense; honesty. He tells things how they happened, either real or imagined.
It’s obvious he’s a deeply troubled individual with some deep-rooted psychological problems. He’s beyond redemption, knowing that he’s broken but ultimately unable to fix things. You can see that he’s older, wiser and that the sharp edge in his personality has dulled considerably. He’s got his rage under control to the point where he can discuss his problems without getting angry, without losing his temper and without lashing out at everything and everyone.
He’s also, obviously one of the most gifted boxers to ever live. The reason he started losing later on in his career, after he went to jail, is because of either complacency or his inner demons standing in his way. But when he was in his prime, his speed was crazy and his punching power far above that of his size; a small heavy weight at 220 pounds. His footwork, his stamina, his ferocity and his accuracy were only matched by his speed and power. It’s amazing to watching him shadowboxing at the age of 18.
This documentary is a recommendation for anyone with an interest in boxing, Tyson, or to watch someone tell the story of his own self-created trainwreck.