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Tyson Reviews

A made-for-HBO dramatization of boxer Mike Tyson's well-documented career, TYSON manages to create an engrossing, sympathetic portrait of the controversial, troubled champion, although it wears its biases quite openly. The film dramatizes the rise and fall of heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, from his early days as a delinquent in Brooklyn through his conviction on rape charges in 1991. As an adolescent Mike is taken in by veteran boxing trainer Cus D'Amato (George C. Scott) and his early road to success is guided by Cus and managers Jimmy Jacobs (Tony Lo Bianco) and Bill Clayton (James B. Sikking). However, the early deaths of Cus and Jacobs leave Mike vulnerable to the aggressive charms of flamboyant promoter Don King (Paul Winfield). Mike becomes involved with actress Robin Givens (Kristen Wilson) and soon marries her in the belief that he's gotten her pregnant. King and Givens both work to turn Mike against Clayton, until, on the night of Tyson's fight with Michael Spinks, Clayton learns that he and trainer Kevin Rooney (Clark Gregg) have been fired. Mike's turbulent marriage to Givens ends in a violent outburst and the fighting spirit drains from him. In Tokyo in February 1990, Mike fights Buster Douglas and suffers his first defeat, although King loudly protests the actions of the referee. Over a year later, Mike arrives in Indianapolis to be a guest at the Miss Black America Pageant. Offering to take one of the contestants to a party, Mike takes the girl to his hotel room on the pretext of summoning his bodyguard. Closing titles inform viewers that Tyson was charged with rape and eventually convicted. Mike Tyson's life has been consistently captured on video since his adolescence and has already been the subject of a penetrating documentary, FALLEN CHAMP: THE UNTOLD STORY OF MIKE TYSON (1993), directed by Barbara Kopple. Much of the dialogue in TYSON, in fact, has been lifted from sound bites from the documentary. Certain scenes from Tyson's life that were not privy to TV cameras are enacted for the movie and add genuine dramatic interest. These include Mike's violent break with Robin Givens(and her mother) and his celebrated late-night altercation with one-time opponent Mitch Green on a Harlem street corner. As TV biopics go, TYSON is more involving than most and better acted thanks to a strong mix of dependable veterans and talented newcomers. Given HBO's long-time feud with Don King, the influence of corporate politics on the production is evident in the demonization of both King and Givens. However, TYSON goes overboard in the opposite direction and manages to gloss over Tyson's own behavior, particularly with regard to his treatment of women and his persistent reputation as a "serial fondler." The final scene, Tyson's late-night encounter in an Indianapolis hotel room with beauty contestant Desiree Washington, leaves deciding what happened in this crucial incident entirely up to the viewer. (Sexual situations, profanity)