“My whole life has been a waste. I just want to escape. I’m really embarrassed with myself and my life.” With those words, the phenomenon who remains the youngestever heavyweight champion of the world retired from boxing in 2005.
Overweight. Bankrupt. Beaten. Lost. What had happened? In James Toback’s documentary, Mike Tyson sits in front of the camera and asks himself exactly that question, weighing up the last 40 years of his life: bullied childhood, criminal career, pugilistic passions, lost father figures, sexual hunger, manipulative women, bad choices, worse friends, that rape conviction...
Brutally honest catharsis pours out from the man who began life as a fatherless, lisping, pigeonloving street kid. In the film’s most staggeringly intimate moments, it suddenly becomes clear.
Tyson still is that boy. At times, he’s left choking on words and tears. And so are we. Aside from split-screens of Tyson’s face - a nod to his
fractured psyche - Toback’s doc is surprisingly unimaginative and artless.
He skips past home-movie footage of Tyson being raised like a son - but really as a pure boxing machine - by trainer Cus D’Amato. He shoehorns in clips from Tyson’s career of devastating KOs.
But it’s Tyson’s talk that packs the wallop. He reveals how when he obliterated his opponent in just six minutes to win his first title, he was in agony from gonorrhea.
He shows us why he chewed a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s right ear: he was about to black out from Holyfield’s illegal head-butts.
There’s more. There’s also a lot missing. Why was his rapetrial defence botched so badly? What happened in prison? Maybe Tyson doesn’t care. Toback never asks.
This is Mike’s show. And the ex-champ shows himself no mercy: smashing through his bestial reputation to reveal a tortured human being still struggling to understand his own flaws.