390) Tyson (2008) Dir: James Toback Date Released: April 2009 Date Seen: November 9, 2009 Rating: 3.5/5
Watching Mike Tyson talk about Mike Tyson is a thrill, no matter how perplexing he may be. Tyson, James Toback's documentary on the man's career as his life, capitalizes on that and addresses some of the dynamic boxer's biggest successes and failures through a lens of his retrospective meditations on his anger, his focus and his inadequacies. Tyson has always been a self-made monster, but here he debunks the preconceived myth as a derange-o ghoul by eliciting the kind of pity that makes movie monsters pitiable, not sympathetic. He knows he can't take back what he's done so he settles for being a noble savage instead of just a has-been crazy.
Because Tyson embraces that image so whole-heartedly, while it might be tempting to say, given how jumbled his thoughts can be, that he's being exploited by Toback, that's clearly not the case. When discussing his fragile mind-set after his release from prison, Tyson says, "I didn't think I was an animal." The inflection in that sentence, putting a stress on "an animal" suggests that he's responding to a question of whether or not he felt like one, showing how Toback is, to some extent leading his subject. But for the most part, Tyson appears to be more than happy to be lead in that small way. His reflective stance is both candid and calculating, a mix of confession and tell-all autobiography. He's setting the record straight, even if that only means legitimizing and not excusing his anger. In his own words: "I'll be trash and I'll be scum but I'll be angelic scum."
Note: One of the more memorable episodes in Tyson's life that the film's effective, one-note reading of its subject demystifies is the Hollyfield ear bite. It's hard to find fault with intimations of mental instability combined with latent homophobia in light of the way he describes the abrupt, sexual brutality of prison life and the way he so eagerly threw himself into his harem of women after three years in prison. Monster or not, it kinda makes sense.