Sundance 2009 Review: James Toback's Tyson

January 16, 2009

James Toback's Tyson

I'm not the biggest fan of documentaries so going into Tyson I was admittedly nervous that it'd be a very unforgettable film. While it wasn't exactly unforgettable, it wasn't that spectacular, and felt like of a documentary I'd catch on HBO rather than in theaters. That's not a compliment, but I still did appreciate director James Toback's very intimate look at the boxer Mike Tyson because of how personal it was. Toback and Tyson are friends and he was able to get him to open up to the camera in a way only a very close friend could. It was worth seeing if only to get an understanding of Mike Tyson that I didn't have before.

Tyson covers a fairly comprehensive amount of his life history and boxing career. Although the running time is only 90 minutes, it felt fairly long, just because Tyson's actual boxing career began in 1985 and ended in 2005. And considering Toback, and especially Tyson, don't hold back on any of the down and dirty details, we get to hear about all of the ups and downs in his life over the years. It all began when he was being picked on as a young kid and progresses through his success as a boxer, marriages and divorces, and prison sentences. Tyson isn't exactly the most compelling guy, but this at least made him interesting to watch.

The problem with Tyson is that it's far too much of a talking heads film. To make his interviews actually entertaining to watch, Toback tries to use a split screen structure that just doesn't work at all. The film only features interviews with Tyson himself, which I thought was initially a smart move to make it much more personal, but it becomes a hindrance with Tyson's convoluted storytelling. He is only exciting to watch speak a few times, primarily when he gets emotional and starts to tear up, but after that, I just wanted to see more of his fights. In the end, it's probably not a documentary I'll ever think about much again.

Sundance Rating: 5 out of 10

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Reader Feedback - 13 Comments


I don't think unforgettable means what you think it means.

T Robert T on Jan 16, 2009


It'll be interesting to know how Tyson started out as a boxer. I'm sold.

Daniel on Jan 16, 2009


#1 Lol.

MBD on Jan 17, 2009


Yeah, I believe you mean "forgettable".

scm1000 on Jan 17, 2009


#1 I was thinking that exact comment. Hilarious!

the.tylerw on Jan 18, 2009


haha exactly @ the unforgettable thing. this review is a bit crap anyway, Mike Tyson is not a compelling person? fuggoudahea.

subversivelexicon on May 15, 2009


he was the best and i thought he would still be there today he made a lot of fans when he turned up but theonly thing he was doing wrong was keep getting in to trouble and spoiling his reputation i still think he is class

micky harvey on Jun 3, 2009


'Tyson' is more of a documentary style film. Its a monologue by Mike Tyson himself talking about his life and career. For hard core Tyson fans, its a treat to dive deeper into his personal and professional life through this movie. On the whole, I would say - a fine attempt by director James Toback to bring an ex-heavy weight boxing champion's real life to reel screen!

insurance attorney fort lauderdale on Jun 11, 2009


why he keeps on destroying his image everytime but anyways he is the best.

victor on Oct 1, 2009


Oh God!.. is so cruel .. men beat each other in the face .. what about the wife? the poor single women is tolerated?.. and Tyson makes me fear

Russian Lady on Oct 14, 2009


this is a very interesting review to the boxing career of mike Tyson as captured and kept within a movie. I definitely is too eager to watch this movie once in my lifetime.

Library App on Oct 30, 2009


'Tyson' is more of a documentary style film. Its a monologue by Mike Tyson himself talking about his life and career. For hard core Tyson fans, its a treat to dive deeper into his personal and professional life through this movie.

TV Online on Feb 6, 2010


Tyson, the man... the main man, the best man!

Pepper Spray on Apr 18, 2010

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