I always wanted to review movies. I watch a lot of ’em, and most people tell me I’m too critical, so I’m certain that I can break down the intricacies of any film. I recall, as a kid, watching Siskel and Ebert At the Movies every Sunday morning at 11. Now Siskel’s moved on to that great screening room in the sky, and Ebert’s a recovering alcoholic, but its done little to dampen my youthful desire to do what they did, savage bad movies every week for fun and profit. I even took a crack at it years ago on a website called epinions, reviewing books, movies, music and even one for beer. I actually got paid, too, receiving a $60 check from them because my reviews generated some hits.
I’ve been renting movies for as long as I can remember, from the early days of going into the basement of American Home and Hardware in Elkton back when they had a movie rental department there, to stepping up to Blockbuster until their prices started to approach $5 a movie, to subscribing to the by-mail Netflix service for a couple years to my most recent addiction, stopping at the Redbox every time I get gas or groceries. These little kiosks are damned convenient, and only a buck a day. I love that they just charge me an extra dollar if I forget to return a movie; I think I owed late fee charges to every video store in a 20 mile radius at one point. Getting rid of the entire concept of late fees was a beautiful touch, if I may say so.
Anyway, I rent a lot of movies from them, good and mostly bad, so I’m going to start reviewing some of them on here regularly. That way, I don’t feel like I completely wasted my time watching them, not to mention the buck. I put a link to a Redbox finder on the right hand sideboard, by the way, in case you’d like to give them a shot. Their locations have swarmed the area like locusts, so I’m sure there’s at least a half-dozen near you.
I’m going to start off with a movie I rented last weekend that was actually, surprisingly, quite entertaining. Tyson is a first person accounting of the life of everyone’s favorite ear-biting, convicted rapist, former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, as told in his own words with interspersed archival footage of key fights, interviews and other moments. In a lot of ways, I was surprised by the tone of this film. Tyson himself, once you adjusted to his voice, which is unusual to say the least, and his sometimes creative use of language, came across as far more earnest than I would have suspected, even breaking down in tears at times when discussing his mentor and the man who likely saved his life, Cus D’amato.
The film covers every aspect of Tyson’s life from his youth, robbing and selling drugs, to his introduction to D’amato, his amateur career, then his ascent to undisputed heavyweight champion. Then, in the starkest of terms, the film chronicles his disastrous marriage to Robin Givens, his loss to Buster Douglas, his prison term for raping Desiree Washington and the total downfall from grace. Tyson then moves on to tell of his climb back to heavyweight champion after his release from prison, and how he lost it all once again, culminating in the infamous ear-biting incident against Evander Holyfield. It take his story through the last few forgettable fights, and his personal demons right up to his enrollment at a substance abuse facility, during which time he actually filmed this movie.
Tyson never shies away from any of the dark and difficult moments in this very-public man’s life, facing the good and the bad with equal clarity. It’s well worth your dollar, and your time. Now if that sounds interesting, go rent this movie then come back tomorrow and click on the read more link below. I’ll be further discussing the films I review under this link and I’ll no doubt be giving some things away, so I don’t want to ruin it for you. Watch the film first, then read on. See you on the other side.
When I first rented this movie, I figured at least I would see some great fight scenes. After watching it, I was surprised to find an entirely new understanding of a man that, deservedly so, has been demonized by so many. Watching his early fights, I was reminded of why Mike Tyson became such an icon in the first place, the man beat the hell out of people in the ring. The clips of him pummeling guys into submission looked like something out of a Rocky movie, not the dull, waltz of the fat men that heavyweight boxing has become. I remember staying up to watch his first championship fight on HBO, back in the days before pay-per-view relegated the Sport of Kings to the fringes of our entertainment menu, and I was shocked to hear Tyson say that part of his aggression in that fight stemmed from the fact that he was suffering from untreated gonorrhea and the pain helped motivate him to quickly dispatch Trevor Berbick.
There was a deeper level to Tyson intellectually presented here than most people, myself included, ever realized existed. He came across as thoughtful and reflective if not eloquent. The image of Tyson as a powerful brute lashing out at anything that angered him was contrasted with moments of remarkable restraint. The Robin Givens interview with Barbara Walters is a perfect example. That has to be the throw-your-spouse-under-the-bus moment of all time. To be sitting not two feet from your wife while she’s telling Barbara Walters and the world that your marriage is a nightmare and you’re a monster and crazy to boot, and do nothing more than sit there quietly and take it. There are many men, myself likely included, who would not have been able to take that kind of humiliation and not respond in some way, but Tyson took it calmly. Not exactly the image of the savage we’ve come to believe.
Mostly, Tyson reveled a deeply flawed man with many, many insecurities. He is a man who, to me, is exactly the type to be taken advantage of by grifters and manipulative people. I can easily see him used by people like Don King, Robin Givens, and depending on who you believe, possibly even Desiree Washington. Tyson still firmly denies the rape charge he went to prison for, and his attitudes about it and the changes in his life after getting out of prison strike me as being in line with a man who just did time for something he did not do, not for something he knew he did and got caught for. I could be wrong, but my gut feeling is that he really didn’t do it.
The ear-biting of Evander Holyfield is probably what Tyson the fighter is best remembered for now, and that’s a shame. This movie did provide a little different context to those actions, however, that still doesn’t make them justifiable, nothing can, but does provide a bit of an explanation of why it happened. In their first fight, Holyfield employed a strategy and ducking under Tyson’s punches and leading his forehead right into Tyson face. It was an effort that led to several headbutts and a warning from the referee, and likely dazed Tyson and affected the outcome of the fight. When the second fight rolled around, Holyfield again took the same tack. In the clips, you could see Holyfield leading with his head into Tyson’s face four or five times in a row, and Tyson desperately complaining to the official who did nothing. After yet another head butt, Tyson bit him. The second bite later in the fight also occurred after a head butt from Holyfield. While my choice wouldn’t have been to bite the man’s ear off, I can now understand the level of frustration that led to it. I also lost a little respect for Holyfield as a boxer, as a result. It did look very much like a strategic tactic to lead with his head, and it worked.
Overall, Tyson seemed to be a man who understood and was willing to admit his own culpability in the hardships he’s suffered. He seemed to take responsibility for the lost promise his life once held. While he spared no ill words for people he’d felt did him wrong, he willingly accepted blame for the consequences. I would say he seemed to be at peace with the direction his life had taken him, but can a man who was just enrolled in rehab truly be called at peace? And given the recent accidental death of one of his children, it’s more a matter of Tyson being a man whose demons just won’t quit. Ever.
While I neither admire nor respect Mike Tyson, I do appreciate him as a fighter, and I do understand him a little better. He seems to be a more rounded person to me now, instead of the cartoonish figure of a boxer that is his stereotype. Overall, I thought this was a pretty good movie; entertaining, reflective and interesting. I also learned from Tyson all the many, diverse uses of the term “skullduggery,” for which I’ll be forever grateful.