Mike Tyson hated this biopic. Having his own project in development for some years, the boxer took exception to this limited series being made without his involvement, likening the producers to slave masters profiting off his story… and what a story it is! Young kid who is in constant trouble with the law gets taken in by legendary boxing trainer who helps him become the youngest Heavyweight champion of all time. Regrettably his mentor dies before their dream is realised, and Tyson’s life spirals out of control with an ill-fated marriage, a defeat in the ring and a conviction for rape. Though this would be more than enough material for a biopic (as it was for the 1995 biopic Tyson), boxing fans know there was much more to follow once Tyson was released from prison. How is it then that such an eventful, chaotic life could be rendered so dull?
Utilising Tyson’s one-man stage show ‘Undisputed Truth’ to frame its story, the title character guides the audience through all the above touchstones. Yet despite featuring one of the best examples of breaking the fourth wall, with the narrator unexpectedly appearing in the dramatisations of his life, the telling falls decidedly flat. Furthermore, though an eclectic soundtrack, flashy camera tricks and exaggerated dislodgings of bloody mouthguards are employed, the recreations of Tyson’s fights remain unexciting. Paradoxically, by continually resorting to gimmicks the filmmakers put the biopic in a clinch, preventing the story’s inherent drama to break free and score some points.
Likewise, the constant bobbing and weaving leaves little opportunity for the actors to shine. The usually reliable Harvey Keitel seems to need the support of the ring’s ropes to stay upright while Russell Hornsby provides an expectedly subdued portrayal of the flamboyant Don King. Trevante Rhodes, while physically and vocally right as Tyson, gives a merely journeyman-like performance.
Fortunately, unlike the patrons of the biopic’s Majestic Theatre, viewers can avail themselves of the subtitle feature to decipher Trevante Rhodes’ impersonation of the boxer.
as Mike Tyson
as Robin Givens
as Don King
as Bill Cayton
Episode 5 of this limited series implies that during his one-man show the boxer concedes he was guilty of rape. Tyson continues to proclaim his innocence.
Closest the biopic gets to recreating a scene from Tyson’s film career is taking inspiration from his one-man stage show ‘Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth’, which was filmed by Spike Lee in 2013.