Editors' pick

Tyson

Tyson movie poster
MPAA rating: R
Genre: Documentary
A documentary retelling the trials and tribulations of boxer Mike Tyson.
Starring: Mike Tyson
Director: James Toback
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Editorial Review

"Tyson" is a sort of guided tour through Mike Tyson's mind with the former prizefighter playing psychic usher. The documentary tells us a lot about Tyson, but it tells us even more about our irresolvable contradictions. We destroy the things we love. We repeat mistakes. We deflect the blame. We dance like Muhammad Ali around the truth, even in our most candid moments. Tyson just does it more spectacularly than most.

His is a deeply affecting story, as James Toback's often mesmerizing documentary reveals. The juvie punk from Brooklyn, N.Y., goes under the wing of hard-bitten, heart-of-gold trainer Cus D'Amato. After winning gold at the Olympics, Tyson turns pro, only to see his beloved mentor pass away. He's lost from then on. At 20, he's world champ but forever caught on the slippery slope between his best and worst impulses. He carves a legend for himself in the ring, but he's caught in a downward spiral of predatory womanizing, drug and drink binges, and licentious expenditure. The inevitable happens: He starts to lose in the ring. He serves three years for rape. He stages a dramatic comeback, regains the heavyweight title. Loses it all again.

We want to know that Tyson has come to terms with his mistakes, that he's a changed man. What we get, instead, is a distressing glimpse into the soul of a haunted, angry, bitter man whose inability to truly grasp his role in the equation of his mistakes has caused untold tragedy to himself and many around him. For all his candor, lurid honesty and tortured self-analysis, Tyson reveals only one thing: There are few things more fraught with myopia than our own reckoning of ourselves.

-- Desson Thomson (May 8, 2009)

Contains profanity and sexual references.