Overview: Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and legendary filmmaker Spike Lee bring Tyson’s hit one-man stage show to TV in HBO Films’ MIKE TYSON: UNDISPUTED TRUTH. It was a filmed performance of the show in New York City. Raw, honest, powerful and full of humor, the stage production of Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth features “Iron Mike” recounting his life’s highs and lows in his signature candid style. He opens up about his troubled youth, landmark boxing career, the key people in his life, controversies, time in prison, self examination, family and new beginnings. Says HBO programming president Michael Lombardo, “Mike Tyson’s one-man show is a fascinating journey into his storied life and career, and we are thrilled to have Spike Lee bring it from the stage to the screen for our viewers.”
I stopped short of reading the PR overview given because it started to expound on what Mr. Tyson speaks of in specifics that I would rather leave to hear in his own words (that is the point of this, right?) than read in print.
Expectations: I did allow myself to watch some promotional clips on the film before hand and I can state that all my expectations have already met. I got poignant, witty, funny, serious and heart-felt from the start and expect the full 85 minutes to give me more of the same. I already felt I understood the man in the snippets I saw so imagine what the whole experience will bring. As long as he delivers the truth then all is good.
Gut Reaction: First off, it is safe to say, that the viewer does get the ‘undisputed truth.’ I think we had to in order for this one man show to even work. Mike is all over the place and sometimes even out of breath as he tells his story. He starts from the beginning and takes us to the present. It is him appearing with only small set pieces & a great little prop to aid him in impersonating someone else. Also assisting him is a well-timed and concise photo montage completed perfectly with timed sound effects.
He truly holds your attention with his life story. But, Iron Mike is no practiced actor. He readily admits a few times he has a speech coach. Anybody who has heard him knows he speaks with a lisp and knows he does not have a wide range of vocabulary. “Epiphany,’ for example, is a new word for him. At times in the show he speaks rather hurriedly and his mind does not seem to catch up with his motor skills; at times he stumbles over words and sentences. He is clearly not a fluid and studied actor or speaker, but he does not have to be because he is the charismatic Mike Tyson.
It was a pleasure to find out the truth, even ever so briefly, about the likes of Robin Givens , Don King and Evander Holyfield; also to learn of his small family as a youth and the one he has today. It was equally nice to hear stories of boxing and fame. Do I think he raped the girl in question? No, I don’t, though I do wish it was the one time in the piece where he told a bit more of the story. Finally, it was surprising that he delivered on the claim that this was indeed the ‘truth’ and that Mike Tyson was able to present the honest truth on who he was, is and hopes to become. He did it not just for the sake of the HBO Films presentation but for the entire run of his Broadway show. It truly must have been exhaustive.
I could also get exhaustive if I went into detail here on the specifics about the performance. I touched on them here but leave the stories to the best person to tell them and that is Mr. Tyson himself. I think you’ll be surprised on the story and how it is delivered. Am I being a bit naïve? Maybe I am, but I was convinced it all played out the way he says it did.
In Conclusion: What can I say? I felt that Mike Tyson, his wife Kiki, who was credited as the writer of the show, and Spike Lee, the director all delivered the truth – the undisputed truth of Mike Tyson. The quick HBO Films piece is well worth a viewer’s time if they ever followed one moment in the interesting life of the youngest boxer to ever win the title Heavyweight Champion of the World!
Other HBO air dates are 11.19 at 3:00pm and 8:00pm; 11.24 at 4:15pm and 1:00am; 11.27 at 2:30am and 8:00pm and 11.30 at 4:30pm. It also plays in to December and can also be found on HBO2 and HBOGo. I await your comments below.