May 19, 2009


I pretty much hate James Toback, who I think is a pretentious, untalented hack. Nevertheless, I went to see Tyson, his film about that crazy boxer who bit people's ears and who scared the living daylights of his opponents on the ring. This is not a conventional documentary in that there is no interspersed commentary from sports authorities and the usual pompous talking heads. This is just Tyson on a quiet riff, recollecting his life in tranquility, a la Wordsworth. It is totally mesmerizing to hear him talk about his past, sometimes using big words like skullduggery (I don't even know what it means), with an impressive degree of forgiveness and understanding for some (Robin Givens), and seething outrage for others (Desiree Washington, Don King). He appears as some sort of lethal innocent, which is an utterly fascinating thing to be. He is, by the way, quite hard on himself, rueful, almost wise. He still doesn't seem to have the self-confidence that could have made him a more well-rounded person, and better suited to fend off the surrounding leeches.
One thing is clear. He probably has lasted much more than he would, had it not been for the guy at juvie who taught him to box and sent him over to Cus D'Amato, his trainer and father figure. A young hoodlum, with a very troubled family life, he could have ended up dead or forever imprisoned long ago. But Cus D'Amato took him under his wing and made him into the scariest punching machine ever and into a suddenly wealthy man.
The boxing footage is the most exciting part of the doc. I like boxing, I don't know why. I salute anybody who had the balls to be on the opposite corner of Mike Tyson. I almost cheered when I heard him recount the beating he gave Don King, the only instance of me advocating violence against the elderly.
Tyson is almost a Shakesperean character. Rags to riches and almost back to rags with a vengeance.
The movie is almost mesmerizing, yet a little dull; ultimately sad and moving.

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