Wednesday 16 September 2009

Review: Tyson

Year: 2008 (U.K release 2009)
Director: James Toback
Starring: Mike Tyson

I have what I think is a healthy attraction to certain subjects in humanity that have gained taboo be it bullfighting or porn. I sometimes quite fascinated by peoples motivations and what drives them to do what they do. Boxing is another one of those odd endeavours that I have a passing interest in. It's a bizarre mentality to step into the ring with someone and engage in combat with someone. Despite what many people say about the sport, it's not as "humane" as they'd like to think. And despite boxing have a certain allure to it that I've only just discovered, the scars of the sport are still there with almost every fighter, only they're not only physical (just look at Ali now), but mental.

The last shot of Tyson is of Iron Mike himself (most of the film is one large talking head of him) and no matter how hearting his last monologue is, his darting eyes are the eyes of an unfocused child. He has a look of anguish and his tone of voice is still one of a broken man.

Tyson is a film that is hard to recommend to many people for a few reasons. One is the aforementioned style of the film, which despite some old footage and some pictures, Tyson is still a a 90 minute one on one with the man. Director James Toback says nothing and there is no interviewer just Tyson with the camera (you) as the confident.

The film allows Tyson to tell us about his life in great detail. Get past his bizarre speech pattens and almost effeminate tone (even more than when his was younger) and you may be surprised by the man's smarts. His description of how he become undisputed champion is almost poetic as he recounts his game plan and the eventual outcome of the match. His telling of his own story is a vivid one and despite most of the film being shots of him, he certainly know how to create a colourful narration.

The films most powerful moments are his tearful description of his old trainer Cus D'Amto and his dubious (for lack of a better word) observations of women. It's at this point you realise how fractured this man's mind is because he looks at women in the exact same way that he looks at his opponent. It's a terrifying revelation for the viewer but also an upsetting one. As Tyson tells the viewer of his life as a youth in what he calls a "promiscuous household" you release that the sins of his parents have left a mark stronger than any other fighter could given him. Like they say "they fuck you up your mum and dad".

Cus D'Amto give this man some focus, but with no nurturing side to speak of, his trainer may have unleashed a untamed beast one the world. A man focused on excess, power and dominance. Tyson trusted no one but his trainer (not even his own mother) and his trainer conditioned the man to overcome everything to get what he wants. Cus D'Amto dies when Mike Tyson is still young and with his only restraint gone, the darker aspects of his psyche take over.

It's amazing to see how honest Tyson is throughout this movie. It seems that he and Toback had an arrangement stating that Tyson had no say other the final cut. However it could have been easy to refuse and Toback's film doesn't hold back in any shape or form, crafting Tyson as more rounded character than any media outlet ever has.

Let's not be too hasty, this is not to say that Tyson is an angel. Not by any means. He is clearly misogynistic, with a hint of sociopath poking through the cracks, but with this said. it's clear that there's a man like any other within the beast that wants to do right. This film may not change your mind about the man or the myth, but try to look at it this way. You could say what ever you want to him, it means nothing to Tyson as his demons shout louder and will be with him forever.