The ferocious sharpness in the kid Mike Tyson’s eyes are gone in his last fight against Kevin McBride in June 11 2005. His physicality on the appearance does not look not even a bit different when he started his career but there is a change, the time did a work on him. Those are his mistakes and regrets inside those gloves of steel. This is “Tyson” one of the best documentaries I have seen and is directed by James Toback. It is fierce and honest and a man deciding to come out of the sheath of misery after forty years of a life he reckon been behaved and executed better. He is making amends, to those around him but especially to himself and James Toback gives that in the best way.
The ninety minutes of the film contains no silence from the fighter. The narration is nonstop. He recites the childhood in the Bronx to the regular visits to the Juvenile detention center and as he grows up to enter the rings, the fights have commentary are combined with Tyson’s experience. I did not realize that the entire film consists of his narration. Toback combines the interviews without a pause. The film is a one single line of narration by the man to avoid any sort of judgments, because there already have been many. This is his story and entirely, completely and purely his version but with nothing between him and us.
Having missed the regular childhood many of us get, Tyson’s consisted of petty thieving and explains how most of his friends are either dead or in prison for life. He tells in the film that he lived this extravagant and over the top life style because he thought he would never live the next day. He is amazed to see the age of forty. The greatest emotional times of his life came during his training under the late Cus D’Amato. As he is found by Bobby Steward in the detention center, he is directed rightly to the man outside for something advanced in the skill he found.
Tyson as a kid was bullied and as he explains how he was picked on, he never fought back. He began to find solace in pigeons and he reacted when that part of him was disturbed by a bully. He won the fight as he says and he never stopped after it. He wanted to escape being hurt and humiliated. That escape guided him in the paths to help and destruction. He made the choices for most of it but sometime the nature took its own.
A film of sufficient detail and it rings to its audience because of this multiple cameras bringing together the man. Toback wants portray the different sides and the narration of the boxer. Tyson as any of the individual is a man of extremes. The difference is he acted on some and did not when he needed to. He got a great conditioning in discipline and self reform from D’Amato but as he died and eventually the stardom of his success made him the god, he fell for it. It is not that fame alone got to him but the distrust he acquired long ago made it feasible to do it perfectly good and screw up in a spectacular fashion.
The analogy might be unusual but Tyson reminded me of the protagonist of the film “The Weatherman”, played with absolute perfection by Nicolas Cage. In that we learn about a man choosing the best worst decisions in his life and wondering why he did it. He tells his audience what someone should not do in a relationship or human social behaviour and does it. Of course he advices when he is doing it and that flash of thought does not help him. Tyson would have had the inner voice through those moments and this film might be the first time he got the right person to do it some justice. All those interviews and outbursts are captured and with the voice of Tyson, we learn of the state and frame of mind he was.
The film is stunning since a person confiding to his audience without inhibitions. Being who he was and who he is right now, this is a study of a human. It gives the psychology of the extremes and the differences of lives each of us lead. Tyson talks blatantly about the days of nothing but sex and the days of nothing but hatred. He admits the mistakes he did which is what makes it a step above the regularity of a biographical documentary. It is not about a success in the end happening in a ring. It is about an effort of person to explain himself to him. Tyson tells how he feels before a fight. How when he walks closer and closer to the ring, he is wary of his opponent and the fear he is building. He explains the fear and the confidence are accumulating and the psychology of defeating his opponent way before the fight. I was amazed by that tactic, simple as it seems, unbelievable as it sounds, that is startling. And we see how that never got translated into the life he led.
It is a film I could not sway a bit. It is a packed up fast moving and brilliantly told documentary. Its editing by Aaron Yanes is uncanny in bringing the frames and arranging the interviews, fights and footage. But mostly it is the narration by Tyson which would have placed the slides easily into a display of life in ninety minutes encompassing the details of destruction and the prospects for a better life. What we learn most importantly from James Toback’s “Tyson” is that it is never too late for anything.