New documentary paints captivating portrait of Mike Tyson

'Tyson' directed by James TobackDirector James Toback’s inventive visual style and complex mixture of original interviews, archival footage and photos combines with the captivating words from Mike Tyson himself to make Tyson one of the most fascinating portraits of a sports figure in years.

Like most films that claim to give insight into the “real” side of a major celebrity, I was skeptical that the entire documentary would play like an infomercial for Tyson. Instead, the film surprised me in its authenticity. Tyson narrates the story of his life with a genuine honesty that caught me off guard. He is a legitimately mesmerizing figure who is capable of being simultaneously intimidating and vulnerable, humorous and tragic, eloquent and hesitant. As Bradley Cooper said when asked about working with Tyson on The Hangover, “He’s incapable of saying anything inauthentic.” It’s almost as if Tyson is only concerned with the small group of filmmakers in the room with him instead of trying to create an image for the masses that will eventually view the film.

It is amazing to hear stories of some of the larger scandals in his life told from such an honest perspective. He doesn’t seem to be reading off a press release, but rather recalling his past in the way he would talk to a friend or family member. His descriptions of time in prison, the incidents with Evander Holyfield, his failed relationship with Robin Givens, and even his sexual exploits are laid out on the table with none of the typical PR spin. We live in a society where everyone is concerned with image and celebrities seem surrounded by an army of publicists who have a canned answer for everything. This is precisely why Tyson’s honesty is almost shocking.

I’ll admit that I’m not really a boxing fan, nor did I follow Tyson’s career closely, but the fact that I found this doc so captivating is a major testament to both the filmmaker and the subject. I would highly recommend checking out Tyson in theaters.

Trashwire readers in Denver: Tyson is playing this week at the Starz FilmCenter.

Alexis Gentry

Alexis Gentry is the creator and editor of She has been called a “dynamic, talented and unique voice in pop culture” by Ben Lyons of E! and, with her strong fascination with entertainment and penchant for writing, it’s not hard to see why.

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