Editor’s Note: I’ve decided to begin posting some reviews of films screening at Hot Docs 2009 early, hopefully helping anyone attending make some decisions about what to see. Tyson is screening on Tuesday May 5 at 9:15pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre.

Tyson (Director: James Toback): You don’t have to be a boxing fan to enjoy this new documentary about Mike Tyson. It covers his amazing career inside the ring with footage that reminds us of how exciting he was to watch. The rest of the film covers his controversial private life and bizarre antics.

Through a series of rambling monologues Tyson tells his story, sometimes with brutal honesty. He reveals that when he faced Trevor Berbick he was fighting gonorrhea, contracted from a prostitute or possibly “a filthy dirty girl” as he put it.

The film never tries to be objective and provides us with only one point of view, Mike Tyson’s. Director James Toback and Mike Tyson have been good friends for more than 20 years and Tyson is one of the producers of the film. Instead of the truth we get a fascinating glimpse into the crazy, complicated world of Mike.

Toback often presents multiple head shots of Tyson with overlapping audio in a split-screen format that hints at madness. Tyson says that he used to talk to himself on a regular basis when he was in prison. There is also mention of his temporary blackouts when he bit Evander Holyfield’s ear. Madness? Insanity? How else can you explain Tyson’s erratic behaviour?

There are some amusing moments when Tyson describes Don King as “a slimy reptilian motherf***er” who would “kill his mother for a dollar.” I don’t think many people would disagree with Mike but when the conversation turns to his rape charge against Desiree Washington he gets pretty worked up and describes her as “a wretched swine of a woman.” He still claims that the rape charges were false.

Tyson says that he’s settled down and wants to focus on his kids, now that he’s been through prison and rehab. He tries to come across as a gentler, wiser, older Mike Tyson but I’m convinced that he could still explode at any given instant.

I wanted more information about Tyson’s depression, his cocaine habit and those mysterious blackouts during the infamous Holyfield fight but the film seems to sidestep those issues. I guess it’s better to leave the audience wanting more.

Official web site of the film


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