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Michael Jai White
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Ed Begley Jr.
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A landmark point in Mike Tyson's career that should not go unseen
The only way to review Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, a truly inspiring, gripping one man show, is to use many quotes Tyson himself uses during the show. The show itself is predicated off of the idea that Tyson is doing one of the things he love (talking about himself) and doing it in the way he wants, with no filter, no editing, and no boundaries. While I have no interest in watching any fights Tyson appeared in, or even any interest in boxing in the slightest, my love and hunger for a great life story will never cease. I make time for stories like Chris Herren's and Tyson's, athletes that had it all, had a real problem, sought help, and now are brave enough to speak in front of an untold amount of people and provide a packed house with their thoughts and feelings on specific issues in their life.
"Thank you for coming out tonight and welcome to my living room," says a seated Tyson when the spotlight first comes on him at the beginning of the special. "Many are probably wondering what the hell Mike Tyson is gonna do on stage tonight, right? Frankly, I'm wondering the same thing," he follows up humorously. At that moment, I assumed that Tyson had no real clear-cut idea what he was gonna do with Undisputed Truth and just come out guns-blazing with whatever he felt he needed to address in his life.
That assumption was destroyed on sight; Tyson knew what the hell he was going to talk about and did a damn fine job doing it. Performing on Broadway in New York, he discusses his life as a hopeless street thug ass a young kid, arrested thirty-eight times as a kid in the bleak area of Brownsville. Brownsville was a town that was littered with "perverts, drug addicts, pimps, prostitutes, etc" before white-folk came and planted trees in front of the buildings, Tyson adds. "Now this area is like DisneyWorld," he states, commenting on how colorful the New York area seems to the mainstream public. He follows by saying this is a story of, "my mistakes, my heartaches, my joy, my sorrow, my gift, my life, my undisputed truth. Let's get this popping'!" Tyson discusses it all, fighting sweat, his heavily-mocked lisp, and his age to tell his story through humorous voices, breathless physical acting, reminiscing, heavy emotions, and a deep-rooted, conscious honesty that shows in the way he talks about issues. He comments how he never knew his father and barely knew his mother. He states how his mother probably wouldn't think he'd get out of Brownsville unless it was in handcuffs or a wooden-box. It was a cold area where "dreams are broken and memories best forgotten." The motto of the land was "never run, never will," and whatever they could smoke or drink "the cheaper the better," the kids of the neighborhood had it.
Had it not been for an Italian man named Cus D'Amato, who saw Tyson's vicious fighting style on the streets of Brownsville as a young kid and thought he could have a career as a heavyweight fighter. Tyson shows us what a typical training exercise with D'Amato looked like, which involved several breakneck fighting moves done in less than thirty-seconds. After demonstrating, Tyson says with little breath, "f***, I'm glad I ain't gotta do this s*** for a livin' no more!" From there on out, he discusses his ups and downs during his heavyweight career, his marriages, and his post-fighting life which involved one move met with heavy controversy.
Believe it or not, that was his heavily-popularized facial tattoo that he said was a choice he made while he was on cocaine. Even when he's three years sober he tells people, "don't like it, don't f****** look!" which I commend rather than denounce. Furthermore, another controversy he describes for a brief time is the allegations of rape as proposed by Desiree Washington. He explores the case for just a brief time before concluding it by stating simply and humanly, "I did not rape Desiree Washington and that's all I have to say." Tyson could've easily come out on stage with venom, like he did when discussing the numerous brawls he engaged in with Mitch Green, but he discusses the subject with maturity.
On another note, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth was directed by Spike Lee, who is just coming off his masterpiece Red Hook Summer and just concluded filming on Da Blood of Jesus, his crowd-funded film. We can see why he chose Tyson as his intermediate film because of the way he films Tyson, often with birds-eye-view shots, shots that include two perspectives/views of him, and with a tremendously sleek editing style, capturing the energy and charisma of Tyson. Lee simply admires Tyson's complete confidence with speaking, his unapologetic vulgarity, and his willingness to tell the truth in the raw while performing. Undisputed Truth marks a landmark point in Tyson's life and should not go unseen.
I'll conclude the way Tyson concludes the eighty-three minute endeavor: "I hope you leave here with a better understanding of me, Michale Gerard Tyson and my undisputed truth. Thank you for allowing me to share this roller-coaster ride of emotions with you."
NOTE: Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth will be airing on HBO for the remainder of November and should see a DVD release sometime in 2014.
Starring: Mike Tyson. Directed by: Spike Lee.
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