Movie Mind Says: Buy It
If You Like This You Should Watch: Black and White, The Wrestler
Better Than: The Blind Side
Worse Than: Raging Bull
Starring: “Iron” Mike Tyson
After watching the initial screening of the film in his namesake, Tyson was asked by director James Toback what his opinion on the film was. After sitting in silence for a while, a somber Tyson responded, “It’s like a Greek tragedy, only I’m the subject.” The Movie Mind never expected Mike Tyson to sum up this introspective picture better than anyone else who has seen the movie. But then again, there were a lot of things that were unexpected in this film. If you end up with a somewhat more sympathetic view of Mike after viewing this, you should. It was told solely in the first person, by Tyson himself, in the rawest, most real, and startling revelation about one of our time’s most complicated individuals. Shot concurrently with Tyson’s stint in rehab, we get an unfiltered look into the mind of someone who is more complex than any fictitious movie character ever created. Falling from greatest in the world to the most polarizing figure in my time, his story is gripping and fascinating. Whatever your opinion you have formed long ago about Mike Tyson, you need to watch this film. Whether your view on him changes or not, you will certainly see how and why, in his opinion, this once great individual unraveled in spectacular fashion. We can only wonder if he will be able to one day conquer his deep-seeded mental demons now that the people who used him no longer need him.
The film begins at the peak of Tyson’s career and most likely the peak of his life as well. He put on a boxing exhibition against then Heavyweight Champ Trevor Berbick and takes the belt as the youngest ever Heavyweight champ. We then see an older, run down Tyson sitting on a couch and discussing his upbringing and roots. It is the most unfiltered look into the man’s mind we have ever seen. We hear his iconic voice and one-of-a-kind vernacular at work. You can almost see his mind doing somersaults inside, fighting amongst itself for which words and memories rush to his mouth faster than the other without any consideration for holding back. It is this early in the film where you realize that this story will be told entirely by Mike. This is his side of the story, candid and uncut for the first time. And whether you believe him or not, he certainly sounds convincing.
The story moves through his relationship with the one man he ever trusted entirely, trainer and coach Cus D’Amato. It’s an amazing contrast that Tyson would lay his trust and life in the hands of a man who looked like the epitome of someone Tyson wouldn’t trust. Here is where you see an emotional Tyson in a way you have never seen him before. Many people have speculated that when Cus died, Tyson spun out of control headed down a one-way street in the wrong direction. I was convinced even more after you see the relationship the two had and how Tyson was taken advantage of when he was gone. As we move through the top boxing years of his life, you hear him explain where he went wrong and his notorious downfalls with women. Interestingly enough, the only people he still is visibly angry and resentful toward are Don King and Desiree Washington. He feels those two took advantage of him the most and it is clear for us to see they did the most damage to him.
The story was told by Tyson in a way that we could even see his transformation happening again before our eyes after going through his marriage and divorce to Robin Givens, dealings with Don King, and jail sentence for the rape of Desiree Washington. He was convicted and whether it was a legitimate charge or not, one can easily see how adamant he is that he didn’t do it. While admitting he may have done other unsavory things, I wonder how a man with no mental blockage on what he says could remain so convinced and steadfast on his innocence in this case. Moreso, unleashing a man like Mike Tyson on the world after making him survive by anny means neccessary in prison for 3-years may not have been the most effective treatment. He came out of jail as the beast everyone thought and hoped he was all along.
While your opinion of Tyson may not have changed, you still have to admit that this seems to be the most honest portrayal of the man we have ever seen. When it comes from the source in such a stark confessional, you can’t help but look at it with fresh eyes. I for one was always enamored by his skills and persona to the extent that I think boxing was derailed for good when he left the sport. But what I also saw in this picture was a man who is not as dumb as I thought he was, first and foremost. I think he understands more than people give him credit for. I do however, think he has legitimate mental issues and instability and can clearly see how that was embraced by his leaches and handlers for their own good instead of trying to have it addressed. My opinion of Tyson has not changed since seeing the film but I sure have a better understanding of how things went the way they did in his life. If only for that and the fact that even out of the ring he commands your attention, watching the film was more than worth it.
Interesting Cameo Appearance: No real cameos but some nice early-years footage of Tyson and former trainer, Cus D-Amato.
Mike Tyson: A lot of my friends are dead, that um I grew up with, that aren’t around anymore, or else in jail for the rest of their life, or else they really strung out on dope somewhere in Brooklyn, out of their head.
Mike Tyson: I was so scared on my first amateur fight, I wanted to, I went downstairs, I’m gonna buy… I’m going to the store in the Bronx New York, I’m going to the store to my trainer, and I went downstairs. Man I should get on this train and never come back, I wanted to get on the train and just leave I was so scared. I didn’t want to fight anybody.
Mike Tyson: One day he [Cus] said “listen you have the chance to change your life, your family’s life, you can be very special. Don’t you want to be champion? You can be champion of the world”. I didn’t pay no attention. He said really, “You could be champion of the world. You could devestate the world. No man can take what you did, you got to believe it”. I looked at this guy and then I started thinking, I said, this guy is really crazy, that’s what I said, this guy is really crazy.
Mike Tyson: In a fight, in the streets, not like the ring, it has to be almost to the death because you never know. If you don’t knock them out cold or you don’t him half to death, he’ll go home and come back with a gun or come back with a friend with a gun, or gang of people. Normally a fight on the street is deadly.
Mike Tyson: There’s nothing like fighting when you’re young and you’re happy. There’s nothing more dealy or more proficient then a happy fighter. Everybody believes the mean, and the serly fighter, is the tough fighter but that’s not true. The guy who’s most relax and loves what he does, and is happy to be in there doing what he does.
Cus D’Amato: A boy comes to me with a spark of interest, I feed that spark and in becomes a flame, I feed the flame and it becomes a fire, I fed the fire and it becomes a roaring blaze.
[quote inscribed on his grave stone]
Mike Tyson: My mission is to go and destroy, and not let anything get involved. You punch, you get hurt, I refused to get hurt, knocked down, or knocked out. I can’t lose, I refuse to lose.
Mike Tyson: I always try to aim to the back of my opponent’s head. Fantasize my punch going through them and in and out of the back of the head. It sounds like a brutal sport but it’s just a technique, it’s just an art. And when people hear you talk in this type of fashion they think of you as some brutal monster, but it’s all about the skill, the speed, the accuracy, and that’s basically what I named my style after.
Mike Tyson: People don’t have the slightest idea of just how hard it is to break somebody’s jaw or eye socket. They think it’s just the power. But it’s the accuracy of the power. Every punch is thrown with bad intention and the speed of the devil.
Mike Tyson: I was being either for brute strength or intimidation, most guys were pretty much intimidated, they lost the fight before they ever got hit. Most guys. I knew the art of skulduggery, beat these guys psychologically before I ever got in the ring with them.
Mike Tyson: You feel like you’re dead, because when you are in prison, that’s the closest thing to death. You stay there so long, you become so use to being by yourself, that, that you’re use to talking to yourself, that you become your own best friend, and best company.
Mike Tyson: My first manager Bill Caton and those guys, they were like slave masters basically. Cause I was just a young kid 18 years old, 17 years old, too young to sign a contract with those guys, but I signed a contract, Cus died, I signed a contract with these guys, and they took what, a third of what I had. Eventually I got rid of them, and then I got caught up with this other piece of shit, Don King, who’s a reeched, just a retched slimy reptilian mother f*cker, right. This is suppose to be my brother, my black brother, and he’s just a bad man, a real bad man. He’d abused you, he’d kill his mother for a dollar. He’s deplorable.
Mike Tyson: [asked about Lennox Lewis] I’ve been friends with him for 15 years. You know I mean, we just like… I fly pigeons, right, this is like a good equation. These pigeons live with each other for ten or fifteen years right. But when I throw feed down, they kill each other to get it. And it’s the same way with fighters. We love and respect each other, but we need, we, we, we’re like mercenaries, we need that money.