Punch-Drunk Glove: Tyson gives a fascinating, addled glimpse into the boxer?s psyche.

Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

Mike Tyson is like O.J.: You probably have an opinion about him, and it’s probably not favorable. So viewers might be surprised to hear these words come out of Iron Mike’s mouth near the end of Tyson, James Toback’s documentary-as-monologue about the former heavyweight champ: “I just want to be a decent human being.” (Unless, that is, you’re lulled to sleep by the soft repetition and apparent honesty of the mountain of self-analysis that comes before.) For the most part, Toback points a camera at Tyson—sitting in a dress shirt in a sunny, nicely furnished living room—and lets him talk. So Tyson addresses everything from his rough Brooklyn childhood (“it was killed or be killed”) to his close relationship with his first trainer, the late Cus D’Amato (“I started believing in this old man”), to the incidents that downgraded him from famous to infamous (the ear bite, the alleged domestic abuse, the rape conviction). As Tyson makes confession after confession, his lisp and gentle demeanor countering the grim tattoo on his face, it’s easy to forget his reputation as a monster, even as he admits monstrous acts. But the question dogs: Is this all genuine, or a lengthy PR stunt? Toback has long been friends with the boxer and has cast him in films before. Here, the director gives time to only one outside rebuke: a clip from a Barbara Walters interview in which Tyson sits quietly while his then-wife, Robin Givens, claims that life with her husband was “pure hell.” Otherwise, it’s just Mike and some boxing footage, with Toback sometimes splitting the screen and looping Tyson’s words as if to reflect a continual, angels-versus-demons battle inside his head. (And if you’re among those who find boxing to be more brutality than sport, there is plenty of support for your viewpoint: Tyson’s statements such as, “I refuse to lose,” and his tales of victory may be inspiring, but admitted motivations such as, “I wanted to hurt him real bad,” give pause.) Unless you just can’t stand the sight of the guy, though, Tyson is a fascinating film—even if it all it accomplishes is a reiteration of the boxer’s decades-old claim: “No one really knows Mike Tyson.”