Posted by: Staff | 02.22.2010

“The Face Breaker” A Review of Tyson

JOSEPH RANDLES ’12

I didn’t really know what to expect of Tyson when I began watching. The only things I had ever heard about Mike Tyson included the oral dismemberment of his opponent’s ear, a rape conviction, and oh yeah, he was in The Hangover.

After watching for a little bit, I discovered that Mike Tyson is one of the most famous boxers in recent memory. In 1986 Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history. Tyson’s career later took a turn for the worse as he became a controversial figure for his run-ins with the law; he is now best known for biting off part of Evander Holyfields’s ear in one of his later fights.

When the film opens, you see a brief montage of a few of Tyson’s more dramatic knockouts. As I watched this, my opinion of Tyson as a violent figure was not changed, but I certainly took a moment to admire the physical ability and skill with which Tyson executed his blindingly quick punches. It was hard to believe how all admiration of Tyson’s skill as a fighter had been blocked out of memory by his turbulent and self-destructive lifestyle.

The camera then focused on Tyson in a dress shirt, sitting by the ocean, relaxed and calmly discussing his extremely rough childhood spent in Brooklyn. One can’t help but develop some sympathy for this portrait of an early Tyson whose life was given direction and meaning by boxing. Led by his manager, coach, mentor, and eventual legal guardian Cus D’Amato, Tyson eventually became heavyweight champion of the world. The film then chronicles Tyson’s rise and dramatic fall both competitively and personally, all of it told through interviews exclusively from Tyson’s perspective.

Tyson constantly refers back to fear, the film’s main motif. He describes his general distrust of those around him (with the exception of Cus D’Amato), which stemmed from his childhood. As the film goes on, one starts to see Tyson as both mislead and easily impressionable, a product of a constant fear of being defeated and betrayed. For example, Tyson at one point describes his first fight, which occurred when a bully harassed him and killed one of the pigeons that he kept, Tyson then attacked the bully and beat him. Tyson talks about these fights and how they began his quest to never again experience the fear and helplessness he felt as a child.

It is easy to get sucked in to Tyson’s story, which is an extremely compelling one. Tyson has if anything lead an extremely controversial life and even for those who have little interest in boxing, or those who do not know much about Tyson this movie is if anything a both intricate and poignant portrait.

Though Tyson certainly isn’t the most detached documentary and doesn’t contain all the bare facts, it certainly offers a compelling, extremely intimate, and emotionally full portrait of Mike Tyson. Portraying him as a flawed human being rather than the conventional perspective of Tyson, as an amoral beast of a man.

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