Tyson goes head-to-head with Iron Mike

James Toback’s Tyson gives audiences the chance to go a few rounds with Iron Mike. Fortunately, the documentary doesn’t require you to pull on boxing gloves and get into the ring with the former heavyweight champ. His jackhammer punches would no doubt reduce your physique to the consistency of a strawberry smoothie in seconds.

??Instead, Toback coaxes such candid, reflective conversations from his subject that the film resembles a 90-minute stream-of-consciousness monologue in the fighter’s trademark, high-pitched lilt. Tyson becomes a kind of arena that forces you to engage with the ex-boxer and convicted rapist, to examine your feelings about Mike Tyson’s triumphs, misdeeds and unsettling personal beliefs. Effortlessly interspersed with clips of bouts and old interviews, Tyson proves far more confrontational than most authorized bio-docs by putting you inside the fighter’s head.??The documentary presents too many compelling facets of Tyson to permit easy judgments. He invites sympathy by describing himself as an impoverished, bespectacled, bullied boy during childhood who only reluctantly began using his fists. Under the tutelage of his trainer and surrogate father Cus D’Amato, he achieved athletic success at an early age, pummeling larger opponents with still-remarkable speed and ferocity. The film doesn’t gloss over his bad behavior. Though he vehemently maintains his innocence in the rape charge, when he admits “I may have taken advantage of women before, but I never took advantage of her” (referring to beauty contestant Desiree Washington), he’s not exactly persuasive. ??Throughout the film, Tyson presents himself as having mellowed with age and making a sincere attempt to get his demons under control: “I’m not an animal anymore.” His confessions have the ring of one of the 12 steps in a recovery program. While he accepts responsibility for some of his problems, like his failed marriage to Robin Givens, he’s more evasive about others. In his account of his notorious second match against Evander Holyfield, he claims to have repeatedly blacked out when the boxer head-butted him, firing his temper to the point where he started chomping on ears. It’s as if Tyson says it’s his fault, but not really his fault. ??As a scars-and-all documentary, Tyson proves to be an undisputed knockout. As a human being, Tyson earns a split decision at best.