By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders
Tyson opens with fight music so you feel like you’re going to watch a boxing movie. The footage of his championship win is thrilling and it accurately sets up what the film is going to be.
The documentary is based on an on camera interview with Mike Tyson discussing his life. Segments are illustrated with stock footage and old video, with a few artistic techniques thrown in there.
The split screen with overlapping and repeating soundbites may worry the practical film audience. I thought it might be too much but it actually reveals the editing in an interesting way. A soundbite in one square cuts to the sound in another, but you see him continue rambling in the first frame. That’s how interviews are chopped up to make film and it lets you in on the process. Plus, the film holds on Tyson when it needs to. Highly effective technique.
The stories are great, really demonstrative of how Tyson became the figure he is. It’s amazing how real life has a beginning, middle and end, so that works for storytelling. He talks about the art and philosophy of fighting. He talks about Robin Givens though not specifically about abuse. He talks about his rape accusation and prison time. He talks about the ear bite. He talks about Don King, though only the bad stuff. It might have been nice to hear how he got sucked into that world in the first place.
Tyson takes as much responsibility for his life as any human being does, which is to say he takes it mildly. He says the things of accepting responsibility, but there are still exceptions. Perhaps most telling is that he thinks 20-30 million dollars is a small amount of money.
Seeing the old footage is awesome too. Old gym training footage gives you both the effect of a training montage, and a chance to see how Tyson’s body evolved over the years. The fights make a real montage more effective than most sports movies.
One question a viewer may have is why Mike Tyson? Well, he’s a well known figure not just in sports, but in video games and gossip. And why not? He’s willing to reveal. Could you imagine a George W. Bush or Jack Nicholson spilling like this? Tyson is surely the best documentary of the year. I can’t imagine any other will be this compelling or artful.