You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth’

The former champ's Spike Lee-directed one-man show gets a showcase on HBO


Starring: Mike Tyson

Spike Lee’s presentation of Mike Tyson’s one-man autobiographical stage show is messy, energetic, muscular — in many respects, bearing a resemblance to the different stages of the former heavyweight champ’s style in the ring. Yet while Tyson has been embraced as an entertainer, the more troubling aspects of his biography require the sort of friendly audience that attended this performance in July, and it’s likely one’s appreciation of “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth” will be determined in part by whether the title itself (which also graces a companion book) can be taken at face value.

Strictly in TV terms, Lee has done an admirable job of bringing the 86-minute performance to the screen, for the most part avoiding tight close-ups because Tyson’s body and movements are such a part of the show, working up a noticeable sweat as he prowls the stage. If one of the advantages of filmed live events is providing the at-home audience a front-row seat, this is more like about the eighth row, wisely opting for a wider view.

As for the content, Tyson — loose and playful, if not always easy to understand — is at his best in the early going, recounting his difficult, brutal childhood, uncertain genetic origins and frequent brushes with the law. It’s perhaps the least vetted part of his biography, given the public nature of what followed.

From there, the piece segues to Tyson’s discovery by trainer Cus D’Amato, his marriage to Robin Givens, his imprisonment (“I did not rape Desiree Washington, and that’s all I have to say about that,” he announces, despite having a lot to say about everything else) and rehabilitating his life and reputation.

Still, it’s hard to escape a sense that there’s a lot of score-settling going on, from Tyson’s unflattering characterizations of Givens (as well as her mother) and promoter Don King to his extended riff on that notorious barroom brawl with boxer Mitch Green, which seems to go on about three rounds too many.

Now 47, Tyson is certainly a source of fascination, particularly for those who grew up watching his ferocity as a boxer. In that context, few stage performers have ever taken the line, “Lend me your ears” quite so literally.

If nothing else, the show (written by the boxer’s wife, Kiki) highlights Tyson’s diligence about reinventing himself, and “Undisputed Truth” clearly appears a cathartic endeavor for its star, including a portion in which he discusses the accidental death of his 4-year-old daughter. As for what viewers are ultimately to make of this somewhat mellowed version of the champ, Tyson’s latest fight yields at best a split decision.

TV Review: 'Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth'

(Special; HBO, Sat. Nov. 16, 8 p.m.)


Produced by 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks.


Executive producers, Spike Lee, Mike Tyson, Kiki Tyson, Jon Kilik, James L. Nederlander; producer, Emily Cohen; director, Lee; writer, Kiki Tyson; camera, Matthew Libatique; editor, Barry Alexander Brown. 86 MIN.


Starring: Mike Tyson

More Legit

  • Stephen Moore

    Stephen Moore, 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' Android, 'Doctor Who' Actor, Dies at 81

    Stephen Moore, best known for his roles as the paranoid android Marvin in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” radio series and the Silurian Eldane in “Doctor Who,” has died. He was 81. “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” producer Dirk Maggs confirmed Moore’s death Sturday on Twitter, writing, “Our dear friend Stephen Moore has [...]

  • Ben Platt Variety Power of New

    Ben Platt on Coming Out and the Queerness of 'The Politician'

    Ben Platt never imagined he would one day star in a series like “The Politician.” “I didn’t think I could be a star of a show in general starting out. I think I was like, ‘I’ll do Broadway. I can be on stage and I can play Jimmy in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and Nathan Detroit [...]

  • Michael Jackson in concert in Milton

    Michael Jackson Musical to Open on Broadway in Summer 2020

    “MJ,” a musical based on the life and career of Michael Jackson, will open on Broadway in summer 2020. Preview performances will start July 6 before its official debut on Aug. 13. The stage show, which will include songs like “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and “Smooth Criminal,” was originally [...]

  • The Wrong Man review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Wrong Man'

    Credit songwriter Ross Golan for the seamless quality of “The Wrong Man,” his mesmerizing musical about a good man who deserves a good life but seems to attract nothing but bad luck. The show’s inventive book, music, and lyrics were all penned by this multi-hyphenate talent who was named 2016 BMI Pop Songwriter of the [...]

  • Kristin Chenoweth Broadway

    Listen: Kristin Chenoweth Wants to Write a Broadway Musical

    Kristin Chenoweth doesn’t just want to star in Broadway musicals. She’s thinking about writing one, too. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I think about it a lot,” Chenoweth said on the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. “I want someone to collaborate with me on a story I have, and it would be [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content