The popular image of Mike Tyson has long been that he's a dumb, savagely abusive brute who treats women -- in particular -- like crap. James Toback's documentary, Tyson, is supposed to correct the record a bit and it does: Now we know that Mike Tyson is somewhat self-aware that he's a savagely abusive brute who treats women like crap.
That's not what Toback is necessarily aiming for in this 2008 documentary. After all, we're treated to many, many images of Tyson staring pensively at the ocean while he tells his rags-to-riches story of a youngster who went from being the first coming of Omar Little -- robbing drug houses -- to the world's youngest heavyweight boxing champion to a convicted rapist to Holyfield ear-chewer and finally to a washed-up boxer and family man. We're also treated to private home video footage of him play-boxing with one of his young children. This is supposed to make us think that Tyson's not quite the brute we've perceived him as: Google up the phrase "Mike Tyson Toback complex" and you'll get 32,000 hits.
But where women are concerned, Mike Tyson is anything but complex. He professes openly that his goal is to dominate women, particularly sexually, and particularly if they're extraordinarily powerful. He calls Desiree Washington, the woman he was convicted of raping, a "wretched swine" -- betraying no Kobe-like awareness or contemplation of the possibility that (at the very least) the sexual advances he thought were welcome actually weren't. Every moment that Tyson talks about women makes you cringe -- though at least there's a laugh to be had when he describes performing "fellatio" on one young woman he met early in his career.
One, though, can be unsympathetic to Tyson and still recognize his story as a tragedy -- a tale of talent, riches and opportunity pissed away because of his own faults, and stolen from him by the always-corrupt game of boxing. But Tyson's contemptible characteristics loom too large in the story for you to feel sorry for him for long.
"Netflix Queue" features reviews of movies I just got around to watching -- no matter how out-of-date they might be. Cross-posted at the brand-new Cup O' Joel.