Tyson’s Life Has Shakespearian Dimensions
“Tyson” is not a documentary about the brutal lifestyle of a heavyweight champion. “Tyson” is James Toback’s brilliant look into the terrifying world of Mike Tyson, a muscular man of extreme contrasts who has captured the public imagination like no other prize fighter since Muhammad Ali .
Now playing at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., “Tyson” quickly proves the film’s main miracle is that Toback has somehow managed to win Tyson’s trust. Time and again the fearsome fighter drops his guard, describing his conflicted emotions in terms that sometimes have the innocence of a child. Imagine Frankenstein’s monster sitting on a big log beside that lake, remembering the sweet little girl, talking about his dream of becoming a high school science teacher. Imagine sitting within arm’s reach of the monster, asking him embarrassing questions while the camera’s silent eye looks on.
Tyson was a fabled powerhouse in the ring but never had a chance to develop an equally successful personality. The brain controlling that formidable mountain of lightning-quick muscle was barely developed at all. In the heightened strength of his youth, Tyson freely admits he lived in fear.
Realizing he had been gifted with a magnificent body that was faster and stronger than anyone else, he feared the anger always boiling inside. He also feared the animal jungle of prison. Intuitively he didn’t even trust himself, certainly not anyone else.
Another mythic film figure that comes to mind is sad-eyed Lon Chaney as the Wolfman, who hated having the power to murder people. The Wolfman feared the full moon.
Although the boxing ring saved Tyson from the street, and provided a place of sanctuary where he could roam and rage at will for a few rounds, the ring also doomed this awesome athlete.
Toback adds archive footage of Tyson’s youth, his early days in the gym, his major fights, and his unfortunate melt-down. Brilliant cinema edits and precise pacing are Toback’[s other contributions.
The emotional high-point is Tyson’s own brutal description of his anger in the ring with Evander Holyfield. In this extreme environment, biting Holyfield’s ear didn’t seem that irrational.
In the end, you will leave “Tyson” with a deeper appreciation for the complexities of human nature. The man – now in his 40s – dominated the physical world in his 20s, then became a tragic figure whose decline was the equal of King Lear and Othello.