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Tyson

Year: 2009
Production Co: Fyodor Productions
Director: James Toback
Producer: James Toback/Mike Tyson
Writer: James Toback
Cast: Mike Tyson

I'm often struck with the notion of what makes a film unique as opposed to a book. Both tell stories, after all, and a successful book should generate the same response a film does, playing in your head rather than on a screen.

But a film like this convinces me the two are distinct and that a film is much more than a script. The story of Mike Tyson's rise and fall is a thoroughly modern tragedy about a young man given far too much power, money and legitimacy who was completely ill-equipped to deal with the damage it would do to his soul.

But while the story is gripping the delivery is cinematically flat, almost making you wish they'd made it a biopic in the vein of Ray or Notorious. Now 40 but looking much older, Tyson sits on a couch talking about his life, the trainer who became an erstwhile father to him and turned him into a champ, his destructive relationship with sex and drugs, the infamous rape trial, his determination to be the best and his subsequent loss of heart.

Frames and edits of interview footage slide into and across each other like Ang Lee's irritating comic strip style from Hulk, interspersed with grainy TV pictures. They include everything from his many fights to the heart-stopping moment when he and then-wife Robin Givens appeared on national TV, Givens outing Tyson as a wife abuser in front of millions.

Listed as an executive producer, you'd think Tyson would sanitise his version of things, or at least not dig an even deeper hole than his reputation is in, but he's either punch-drunk or simply a monumentally stupid man, some of the things he says making him look every bit the Paris Hilton of his day we all thought he was.

It's an interesting way to learn the story if all you know of him is the occasional tabloid snippet, and maybe all the braver for not just being a plea from Tyson to clear his name. You'll indeed feel sorry for him as he complains that he's down to his last $20 million.

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