Mike TV Review

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Plot: Mike is an unauthorized and no-holds-barred look at the life of Mike Tyson – and it is one wild ride. The 8-episode limited series explores the tumultuous ups and downs of Tyson’s boxing career and personal life – from being a beloved global athlete to a pariah and back again. Focusing the lens on Mike Tyson, the series examines class in America, race in America, fame and the power of media, misogyny, the wealth divide, the promise of the American Dream and ultimately our own role in shaping Mike’s story.

Review: Mike Tyson is a divisive and controversial figure in pop culture. For sports fans, he remains one of the most exciting and talented boxers to ever wear the heavyweight championship belt. For some, he is the hilarious cameo that made The Hangover one of the biggest hits of 2009. For still others, he is a convicted rapist with a history of violence against women and men. Despite all of that, Mike Tyson’s story is one that has fascinated everyone. Unlike other boxing movies like Ali, Cinderella Man, or The Hurricane, the new limited series Mike takes a far different approach to tell the tale of its subject matter thanks to coming from the collaborative team behind the acclaimed film I, Tonya which chronicled a much different yet equally fascinating fallen athlete. Still, despite being touted as an unauthorized look at the life of Tyson, Mike is a fairly safe adaptation of his life that doesn’t deliver on anything we didn’t already know.

The eight-part series, which debuted its first episode on Hulu last night, is told in half-hour episodes that bounce around from Tyson’s childhood to his early boxing career and post-prison resurgence with various segments filmed to echo the look and style of the era they take place in. All of these sequences are held together with a wraparound story showcasing Tyson (Trevante Rhodes) performing his one-man show, Undisputed Truth. That stage show, which was later filmed as an HBO special, gives Mike a feel similar to Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull which used Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) performing a comedy routine in a similar manner. A glaring difference between Raging Bull and Mike is that many of those interested in this story have likely already seen Undisputed Truth which makes this series feel a bit repetitive without offering much more in the way of new ground.

It also begs the question as to why Mike Tyson has been so vocal about this series being unauthorized and presenting a tarnished view of his life. All of the marketing for Mike has touted the unauthorized label as a badge of honor which led me to think there were going to be some controversial reveals that would be on par with recent exposes on Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein. Instead, Mike is a fairly balanced look at Tyson’s transgressions that show sympathy for his troubled youth but never make him out to be innocent of his actions. From the very beginning, we see Tyson as a child stealing and fighting his way to early stints in juvenile detention and the genesis of his boxing career. Much of the scenes showcasing Tyson as a kid look and feel familiar to the point of being cliche. From the racist cops to the rundown neighborhoods, these oldest flashbacks are the weakest part of the series.

Director Craig Gillespie brings the best to Tyson’s adult years, especially with the in-ring sequences. Boxing has long been a great sport to showcase dramatically and Gillespie makes every punch look beautiful and violent. Gillespie also makes the 1980s and 1990s sequences as flashy as the respective decades with a great soundtrack of contemporary music and solid editing. But all of the technical elements aside, Mike works thanks to Trevante Rhodes’ performance. After his memorable turn in Moonlight, Rhodes has not had a showcase for his acting like Mike. When performing the one-man show scenes, Rhodes displays perfect mannerisms and gestures along with Tyson’s trademark lisp and speech patterns. But Rhodes is even better in the scenes throughout Tyson’s life, capturing the boxer’s intensity and unpredictable temper with manager Don King (Russell Hornsby) and ex-wife Robin Givens (Laura Harrier).

Mike makes sure to accurately give us looks at Tyson’s bouts with Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield, two of the biggest competitors he faced in his career. It is through his talent as a fighter that Mike builds its strongest character dynamic with Rhodes holding his own in scenes with Harvey Keitel. Keitel portrays Tyson’s trainer, Cus D’Amato, and the almost paternal bond between the two men. Despite coming from different upbringings and very different eras, Tyson and D’Amato in this series are a bizarre parallel to the relationship between Rocky Balboa and Mickey. I enjoyed every scene with these two on screen and wanted that to be more of the series’ focus. Condensing so much of this story into just four hours was already a daunting task, but I, Tonya writer Steven Rogers did the best he could. His writing staff along with Gillespie and directors Tiffany Johnson and Director X, attempted to make this story as dynamic as possible and avoid telling a linear tale, but it ends up being more flash than substance.

As a piece of entertainment, Mike is a fast-paced and interesting look at the life of one of the most polarizing figures in modern sports. At times, Trevante Rhodes’ performance borders on imitation rather than diving into the psyche of Tyson but with such a larger-than-life personality, I cannot think of any other way to really tackle a story like this. My expectations were higher and hoping this series would be a brutally honest look at Mike Tyson but it is instead a lot safer than I thought it would be. Not to take anything away from these excellent performances, but Mike is more bark than you would want in telling a story about an athlete known for his bite.

Mike premieres on August 25th on Hulu.

Mike

GOOD

7
Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.