Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tyson: Grade D

Tyson (2008)
Mike Tyson; Writer-Director James Toback.

This documentary biography of boxing champion Mike Tyson is mildly interesting. Head shots of him (now in his 40’s and retired) talking about his life are interspersed with archival clips from his life, mostly from the ring, but also of weddings, press conferences, and so on.

He had a remarkable life, rising from poor, neglected street kid in Brooklyn to a multi-millionaire, international sports figure. Along the way he served prison time for rape, and famously, bit off part of the ear of one of his heavyweight opponents during a match. But no topic is pursued in detail. There is no interviewer and no hard questions are posed. Tyson simply rambles on in self-exculpatory fashion. He does reveal himself, perhaps more than he intended, as an angry and depressed, uneducated, under-socialized criminal, irresponsible and financially incompetent; a rapist and a drug addict (all this by his own admission except the rape charge, which he denies without detail). How interesting can a psychopath like that be? His moments of self-reflection produce banal conclusions. He seems not capable of providing insight into his, or any life. For crucial incidents (such as the ear-biting), he simply denies personal responsibility (“I just blacked out momentarily”). Maybe that’s so, but it illuminates nothing. The result is a superficial exercise in self-aggrandizement, of value only for dedicated fans.

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