Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Hearing Mike Tyson speak is a window into how he boxed — mesmerizing, lightning-quick dances of conversation, punctuated by raw, powerful one-two jabs of repeated phrases and words spilling forth until the knockout blow of a point.
James Toback’s unadorned 2009 documentary provided a fascinating psychotherapy session with a man unable to find peace with his psyche. You believe Tyson’s insistence that he lives at the top of the world or the bottom of the ocean. For him, the middle is something at which to glance during ascents or descents.
Often presented in split-screen — like Tyson sparring with himself — Tyson is made up exclusively of archival footage and stream-of-consciousness verbiage.
Like The Fog of War with Robert McNamara, Tyson depicts a man acknowledging the flaws of a values system that saw him revered and reprehended. It’s not out to redeem or reproach, just assess with merciless honesty.
For all the joy switched on in Tyson’s eyes when introduced to boxing, he knows it enabled uncontrollable urges to hurt, conquer and decimate (all his words). For all his fatherly pride, he lacks stable love as someone seeking to dominate and ravage women (again, his words).
“His body won’t let him do what his mind wants to,” it’s said during a fight of Trevor Berbick, whom Tyson defeated for his first heavyweight title. Twenty-three years later and for better or worse, Toback’s final image suggests the same is true of Tyson — demons now as indomitable to him as he once was to opponents.