Tyson (Blu-ray) (2008)

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Released 2-Dec-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Biopic None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 87:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By James Toback
Entertainment One Starring James Toback
Trevor Berbick
William Cayton
Cus D'Amato
James 'Buster' Douglas
Robin Givens
Evander Holyfield
Jim Jacobs
Don King
Monica Turner
Mike Tyson
Case ?
RPI ? Music Salaam Remi

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    It is easy to remember but harder to convey the role that Mike Tyson played in society in the mid 1980s. Whilst many may struggle now to identify the current heavyweight champion of the World or at least the last heavyweight boxer to unify the belts (for the curious it was Lennox Lewis)in the mid to late 80s everyone knew Mike Tyson was the top dog. Maybe it is the lesser interest in pugilism or the plethora of sports on TV, including the new ultimate fighting forms, but Tyson was the last fighting man to capture the interest of the world. On the cover of Time and spoken about around every water cooler he was the Tiger Woods of the 80s albeit a dynamic, scary man.

For those who came in late and saw only the man of the 90s and 2000s Mike Tyson appeared as a train wreck, fighting increasingly more desperate and less effective bouts, spending time in prison for sexual assault and facing bankruptcy despite lucrative purses. That is what makes this documentary so riveting. For Tyson was not always the troubled soul we see today but was once a God, if a vengeful one, whose popularity was at rock star level in the Greed is Good era. He has seeped into popular culture, becoming the inspiration, high pitched voice and slight lisp, for the formidable Drederick Tatum from The Simpsons.

Boxing fans are constantly debating the legacy of Tyson. Where does he rate in the pantheon of boxing greats? My resident office boxing enthusiast puts him outside the top 10 of great heavyweights but, grudgingly, admits that he would have beaten all but the best if they were matched up in their respective primes. The reason? Tyson's relentless drive and power. He was like an unstoppable force and one of the most frightening men since Sonny Liston. In short, Tyson was an animal in the ring.

James Toback's documentary Tyson is not a tribute to the man. Rather, Toback gets Tyson to tell his own story from beginning to end. Tyson was reputedly asked after a screening what he thought of the film - his response "It's like a Greek tragedy but I am the subject" pretty much describes the film. Toback reconstructs the tale of this man in an unusual fashion - by frequently employing split-screen techniques and starting multiple overlapping monologue strands. The technique, which in some situations could be a tiresome gimmick, becomes a powerful means of storytelling as we have to pick up on the many scattered elements to this confused, contradictory man.

The Tyson story is both exhilarating and heartbreaking. A petty criminal and street tough from an early age his descent into crime was saved by legendary trainer Cus D'Amato. Cus became more than a trainer to the young Tyson allowing the boy to live in his house as a son. The pairing was life-saving for both. In interview footage included here Cus says that the quest to make Tyson World Champion is what is keeping him alive. Tyson himself admits, holding back tears, that Cus changed his life, putting him on the straight and narrow. His gravestone says it all:

A boy comes to me with a spark of interest,
I feed that spark and in becomes a flame,
I feed the flame and it becomes a fire,
I fed the fire and it becomes a roaring blaze.

The Tyson story is one of stratospheric highs - winning the World title at 19, being undefeated for almost 5 years and crippling lows - the death of Cus, the train wreck marriage to actress Robin Givens and the rape conviction that saw him spend his formative years in prison. He was released after three years but his fighting was never the same. Not only had he lost the physical edge but he had lost the will to win.

Boxing fans will have this in their collection already. However even non fans will get something out of Tyson. It is a smart, insightful documentary that allows us to look into a man's soul. A troubled, contradictory soul but one capable of great strength and great failing. Importantly the film contains action sequences but it is far from a highlights reel.

Of course, sadly, the film has a real life postscript as Tyson lost a child in a terrible accident only months ago. After watching this film it becomes clear that the man is a living expression of lost opportunity. He is perhaps still difficult to really care for but he can, just maybe, be understood.

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Transfer Quality


    Tyson is presented on Blu-ray in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, almost identical to the cinematic aspect ratio.

This film may not seem a candidate for high definition. After all, it uses only two sources: old video footage of the public and private life of Tyson as well as interview footage shot in high definition digital video. The old video footage is never going to look good and retains that fuzzy grainy look with less than stable colours that leaves us in no doubt as to the era we are in. The interview footage should and does look sharp but it is questionable whether the visual difference is readily noticeable between DVD and Blu-ray. In short this is hardly likely to be a reference disk for your home theatre.

Leaving the quality of the source material aside the film is well transferred to Blu-ray. The interview scenes are sharp and have sufficient depth to be able to pick out minute lines and imperfections in Iron Mike's face. The film has a post-production look to it which means the flesh tones are slightly unrealistic. This seems a stylistic decision.

There print is clean and clear of any defects. There is a little digital noise in some of the scenes of Mike walking along the beach cast in a sunset glow but otherwise there are no technical problems with the transfer.

There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two soundtracks on Tyson.

The default track is an LPCM 2.0 track running at 1536 Kb/s. The other is a Dolby Digital True HD track.

Once again the soundscape for the film makes little demands. The 2.0 track is perfectly adequate. There is little activity in the surrounds and the punches, though louder than I ever remembered them, are only slightly elevated by the sub-woofer. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The only moments of incomprehension are, of course, where director Toback blends Tyson's monologues over each other.

The sound is in audio sync.

The soundtrack is by legendary music producer Salaam Remi. It combines his hip-hop beats with electronica to give extra oomph to the fight scenes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


An empty ring.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This Blu-ray is denoted Region B. The film has been released in Region A with similar specifications but a host of extras. According to a reliable source these are:

The absence from the Region B version is perplexing and unexplained.


    Love him, hate him or even fear him - there is no doubt that Mike Tyson is a phenomenon. He gave boxing a superstar but just maybe killed the sport as an international spectacle. For as much as people stood in awe of the power of Iron Mike it was difficult to warm to him. This film redresses the balance and explains, if not excuses, what happened.

The look of the film is competent and impressive though the source material is not reference quality. The lack of extras is disappointing.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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