Mike Tyson has moved beyond being mythologized as a powerful, feared boxer to become a punchline. But in James Toback's documentary, in-between shots of famous fights, news segments and interviews with Tyson himself, the myth of Michael Gerald Tyson is deconstructed to show an obviously mentally troubled individual with severe rage issues.
Throughout the course of the film Tyson's words show a man at his most disturbing and his most vulnerable. From discussing his need to overpower women and deny them their own sexual pleasure -- which is extremely frightening, considering his 1991 rape charge -- and his own history growing up poor, Tyson's madness and anger are given context, as opposed to more sensationalistic media portrayals.
Surprising elements of Tyson's self-portrait are his willingness to admit his weaknesses and mildly shocking historical facts. He speaks early in the film about being bullied and having his glasses -- yes, he wore glasses -- stolen and thrown onto the back of a truck. He also mentions his weak lungs -- one of the reasons why he tries to win fights in the early rounds.
Tyson then discusses his teenage years, where he grew into a wild child, spending his time with criminals and other undesirables. As he moves into boxing, the doc focuses on his experience in the ring and how the media negatively affected his fragile mental health.
One of the most fascinating things about Tyson is that he's often willing to admit his battles with mental illness. He talks about the voices in his head and the sequence where he discusses denying women pleasure is completely cringe-worthy.
The documentary itself is gorgeously crafted, with smart inter-cutting of archival footage and layering of Tyson's monologues to the camera. When he talks about how he "hears voices," Toback throws audio track upon audio track, a smart, if schizophrenic, move that makes it seem like the voices in Tyson's head are themselves talking to the camera.
Tyson is a strong documentary, which doesn't only focus on one man's boxing career, but also his troubled personal history with surprising insight.