TV Review: Tyson: Undisputed Truth

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Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth is Tyson’s one-man show chronicling his tumultuous life and career, directed by Spike Lee.

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Mike Tyson is interesting enough to be the subject of a one-man show. To be honest, before this special I didn’t know much about Tyson other then he was a heavyweight champion, went to prison, and was the final boss in one of the best video games ever made, Nintendo’s Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! Alright, I shouldn’t be talking about a silly little 8-bit video game in conjunction with a show where Tyson completely opens up about his life. While rough around the edges, this special does its job of getting me more interested in a man who’s definitely more compelling than his Hangover cameos would suggest.

Right off the bat, we have to talk about Tyson’s actual performance. This is certainly difficult to critique, and I can’t even imagine how hard it is to do something like this if you aren’t an actor or performer, so kudos to Tyson for that. There is no denying that Tyson puts his heart and soul into this, and it shows. My problem, and this isn’t really anybody’s fault, is that the man is sweating and breathing like crazy to the point where I got exhausted just watching him. There are moments where I wanted to jump through the television screen and pour a gallon of water on the dude’s head. Certainly you can consider this a positive as it’s pure emotion, but it’s definitely uncomfortable at times. It’s hard to understand Tyson due to his speech, which can make it hard for the audience to get fully engulfed in his stories. But Tyson does a good job of poking fun at this, which adds another level to his performance. Tyson undoubtedly gives a powerful and compelling recount of his life.

Tyson starts off talking about his upbringing in Brooklyn, and recounts the seemingly endless barrage of arrests he had as a kid. To be honest, I didn’t find this section very interesting. It wasn’t until Tyson got into his boxing career as a teenager where he really started to pull me in. The absolute best part of this whole show is when he describes the relationship he had with his trainer, Constantino “Cus” D’Amato. Whenever Tyson talked about Cus, and even when he imitated him, these were the clearest and most passionate aspects to his performance. If anything, this show made me want to read more about Cus, who also trained Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres. Everything involving Tyson’s career I found fascinating, but the personal stuff he talked about in the first half, such as his first divorce with actress Robin Givens, just didn’t grab me that much.

There’s also a large section devoted to an altercation he had with former boxer Mitch Green. While this provides some of the funnier parts of the show, the story went on waaaaay too long, and this is where I started to lose interest. There are so many intriguing parts to Tyson’s life that take place after this, I was disappointed it got so much time.

The second half is where the show really goes full steam ahead. Everything from his rape conviction in 1992, and on down the line through the Holyfield fights, relationship with Don King, and his drug use captures Tyson at his lowest moments, but it’s also the height of his performance. And even if you hate Tyson, and don’t believe a word he’s saying, it’s impossible not to get moved when he talks about the death of his four year old daughter Exodus in the last ten minutes of the show.

While a little boring at times, by the end of show I was certainly more intrigued with Tyson. Whether he’s telling the truth, lying, or hiding facts, I really don’t know, but as a pure performance, it’s a pretty good one. Spike Lee does a good job directing for the most part, but it’s a little too Spike Lee at times, getting a bit overbearing. The beginning was also to melodramatic for my liking. If you’re interested in Tyson or boxing, this is a must watch. For someone like myself who’s not as enamored with that stuff, it’s still a very solid show.

Rating: 7 out of 10 (Good)

cover photo credit: hbo

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.