The news this week that Mike Tyson’s 4-year-old daughter Exodus died in a sudden home accident marks a horrible personal tragedy for the victim’s family.
They deserve the right to mourn in private. However, Exodus’ death signals a new challenge for the retired boxer that’s immediately visible to the public, and unavoidably ripe for psychological scrutiny. Audiences can find Tyson telling his story on the big screen, which directly informs this recent, morbid chapter.
Just last month, Sony Pictures Classics released James Toback’s revealing portrait of the fallen athlete, "Tyson," on a dozen screens around the country. A fascinating experimental survey of Tyson’s career, the movie provides an overview of his ups and downs straight from the horse’s mouth.
Tyson narrates throughout, staring directly into the camera and guiding viewers from his violent youth on the streets of Brooklyn to his celebrity ascendance as the most successful fighter in the world.
But the success story gradually turns into a document of his fall from grace. He discusses his failed marriages, sexual promiscuity and later problems with bankruptcy.
We watch the infamous moment where the boxer gnawed off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear, while Tyson explains his uncontrollable rage on the soundtrack. Later, in a bittersweet finale worthy of classic Hollywood, Tyson quits boxing after a swift fight with newcomer Kevin McBride.
In a post-match interview, Tyson admitted he has lost his passion for the ring, needs to spend time with his family and rescue himself from debt. Although confident about his decision, he still exudes an undercurrent of sorrow. "I just don’t have it my heart anymore," he says. "Boxing doesn’t define me."
For 20 years, however, it did — and one can imagine the daunting process Tyson went through to escape its power. "It’s like a Greek tragedy," the boxer reportedly told Toback after the movie premiered at Cannes last year. "The only problem is that I’m the subject."
Now, the tragedy has deepened, and developed a horrible irony.
At the end of "Tyson," the boxer contemplatively strolls along the beach, watching the waves roll by. Then, seen in home video footage that now contains unsettlingly bleak undertones, he plays with his children. He seems ready to make progress and gain control of his world.
Filled with regrets, Tyson also appears to have distanced himself from them.
In the upcoming comedy "The Hangover," he plays himself in two scenes, where he confronts a couple of Vegas party animals after they steal his tiger. After showing up in their hotel room, Tyson knocks the kookiest of the apparent thieves (Zach Galifianakis) to the floor.
Stunned, one of his peers (Ed Helms) offers an immediate reaction to Tyson’s powerful slug: "He’s still got it."
Tyson’s role in "The Hangover" may function more as a punchline than a character, but he apparently gets the joke, and acknowledges the ease with which comedians can reduce him to a caricature. "If I have any anger," he says in Toback’s movie, "it’s directed at myself."
Now, Toback faces a hurdle that he can’t — or at least shouldn’t — blame on himself. His latest tribulation involves the whims of life beyond his control.
It’s the final chapter of "Tyson," but it will take some time before we learn how it turns out.