Credit: Larry McConkey


The term isn’t generally applied to the subject of a nonfiction film, but ”starring” is the right description for Mike Tyson’s participation in James Toback’s provocatively sympathetic, impressionistic documentary portrait, Tyson. With the security of a friendly filmmaker in his corner (Toback, with his fondness for indulging male characters who come on strong, has cast the former boxer in two previous films), the famous and at times infamous Tyson gets to tell his complicated, uneasy life story his way. He talks about the mystery of being Iron Mike in long, compelling stretches of monologue, shot up close to enhance the dramatic contrast of the soft, lisping voice emerging from the big, tattooed head, calmly confessing to bad stuff, especially when it comes to women.

Toback then slices and stylizes these riffs in his own version of fight choreography, inserting archival footage from the ring and combining split screen repetitions of the subject’s own hulking presence with overlapping repetitions of Tyson’s own sing-songy, intermittently self-aware words. The result is flashy, but the meaning is a bit of a bob and weave. Tyson draws no conclusions about the former heavyweight champion who’s as famous for his 1992 rape conviction and subsequent prison term as for his prowess in the ring, except that he’s a potent puncher, a damaged man, and a handsome object for the camera’s gaze. B?

  • Movie
  • 88 minutes