Posted May 22, 2009 by William Dunmyer in Uncategorized

Tyson: Reasonably Good Documentary

“Tyson” is a reasonably good documentary, but I cannot see it being on anyone’s Top 10 list at the end of the year.

Director James Toback gives the film completely over to Tyson. No one else offers commentary. This is Mike’s chance to explain himself. Surprisingly, he’s quite engaging. He starts with his terrible childhood in a deadly section of Brooklyn in the early 1980s, the height of the crack era. It surprised me to learn that Tyson was a very gentle and vulnerable boy who toughened up only because he had to.

But once Tyson turned to crime, he began to enjoy it. It was a bit disturbing not to hear him express any remorse for his crime sprees. Has he not once thought about all the people he robbed? How many children’s lives did he wreck by burglarizing their homes? Tyson’s character seems to be split. On the one hand he is deeply compassionate. He can’t hold back tears when he reminsces about the boxing coach who saved his life and was the first adult to love him. But on the other hand, Tyson revels in his physical prowess and ability to intimidate. He positively giggles at times about his power to frighten others. For all his talk of maturity, Tyson still seems to be that boy from Brooklyn wanting to get even with the older boys who mocked him and beat him up. “Look who’s the tough guy now,” he seems to say over and over. I suppose it’s this mixture of angel and devil that makes him intriguing.

Tyson discusses all the major turning points in his life: his discovery of boxing, the end of his criminal life, his rapid rise to the top of his sport (if you can call it a sport), his disastrous marriage to Robin Givens, his rape conviction (which he convincingly claims was a travesty of justice), the infamous ear-biting incident. It’s all there. Now in his early 40s, Tyson is certainly more mellow. His most significant mission in life now, he says, is to be a good father to his children. I wish him the best.

If I could give him one suggestion it would be to consider making presentations at juvenile-detention centers around the country. There are no doubt tens of thousands of boys whose lives he could really change because he knows what drives a gentle boy to crime.

William Dunmyer

William Dunmyer is a lifelong cinephile who fell in love with movies at about the age of 5. He lives in New York City.