Review: ‘Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World,’ starring Khris Davis, Jasmine Mathews, John Magaro, Sullivan Jones, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Sonja Sohn and Forest Whitaker

April 27, 2023

by Carla Hay

Khris Davis and Sullivan Jones in “Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World” (Photo by Alan Markfield/Affirm Films)

“Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World”

Directed by George Tillman Jr.

Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of the world, from the 1950s to the 1990s, the dramatic film “Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World” (based on a true events) features an African American and white cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: George Foreman becomes a world-famous champion boxer, but he faced many challenges before, during, and after his fame—including poverty, a failed marriage, accusations of being a traitor to African Americans, bad business decisions, and a crisis of religious faith. 

Culture Audience: “Big George Foreman” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Foreman, boxing and sports biopics, but what this movie has to offer is often mediocre and too mushy for a story that needed to be grittier.

Forest Whitaker and Khris Davis in “Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World” (Photo by Alan Markfield/Affirm Films)

The first clue that “Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World” is going to be hokey and boring is the movie’s unnecessarily long title. This corny and awkward biopic of boxing champ George Foreman makes his unusual life look dreadfully formulaic. The entire movie is like a limp punching bag filled with nothing but hot air. Major, life-changing moments in Foreman’s life are depicted in very shallow ways, like boxes that need to be checked off in a “to do” list of drab celebrity biopics.

Directed by George Tillman Jr., “Big George Foreman” is Tillman’s movie directorial follow-up to the 2018 drama “The Hate U Give.” A vitally important and searing look at the aftermath of police brutality against black people, “The Hate U Give” is a movie that will remain relevant for years to come. “Big George Foreman” is a movie that was already made with stale and old-fashioned clichés, making it irrelevant except to people who like stale and old-fashioned celebrity biopics. Tillman co-wrote the “Big George Foreman” screenplay with Frank Baldwin, whose only previous feature-film credit is the 2019 forgettable action flick “Cold Pursuit,” starring Liam Neeson.

“Big George Foreman” is told mostly in chronological order and has frequent voiceover narration from the character of George speaking in hindsight. There are occasional flashbacks. For the purposes of this review, the real people are referred to by their last names, while the characters in the movie are referred to by their first names.

Unfortunately, this drama is plagued with cringeworthy acting from many of the cast members, most of whom don’t have realistic chemistry with each other. Khris Davis, who has the role of the adult George, doesn’t really physically look like the real Foreman. And that’s a disappointing distraction when Davis’ acting is mediocre at best.

Foreman (who was born in 1949, in Marshall, Texas) and his six siblings were raised by mother Nancy Foreman and stepfather J.D. Foreman. However, the movie makes it look like there was no father figure in George’s life. Nancy (played by Sonja Sohn) is depicted as a single mother working as a waitress in a diner and raising her kids in poverty in Houston’s tough 5th Ward area.

The movie portrays George’s sister Mary as the sibling with whom he had the closest emotional bond. Mary is played by Jordan Yarborough as a teenager and by Erica Tazel as an adult. George says in a voiceover about Mary: “She always saw the good in me. I loved her for that.”

But some of the movie’s intended heartfelt emotions are undercut by cheesy lines of dialogue. In a dining-room scene with a pre-teen George (played by Kei Rawlins) at about 11 or 12 years old, Nancy is trying not to look upset in front of the kids because she doesn’t have enough food to give them all a proper meal. George says, “I’m so hungry, I could eat this table.”

At school, young George is much bigger and taller than his classmates. He is bullied and discriminated against because everyone knows he comes from a poor family. Even a schoolteacher shows this prejudice: In a scene that takes place in a classroom, George has his hand raised to answer a question from the teacher. She looks at George’s worn-out shoes and decides to pass over George and choose a well-dressed student named Jalen Burke (played by Makario Glenn) to answer the question instead.

Later, in the schoolyard, Jalen bullies George by humiliating him about George living in poverty. Jalen sneers to anyone who’ll listen that George should change his last name from Foreman to Poorman. This insult infuriates George, who punches Jalen so hard, Jalen falls to the ground. Several times throughout the movie, it’s mentioned that George has an anger management problem.

As a teenager, George (played by Austin David Jones) almost gets arrested for mugging an undercover police officer. He narrowly escapes arrest by hiding in a sewage dump area and smearing mud all over his face, to throw off his scent from police dog nearby. This close call is enough to motivate him to join Job Corps when he hears that it’s a program where enrollees get free lodging and job training. (The movie doesn’t mention that in real life, Foreman dropped out of school at 15 years old.)

George enrolling in Job Corps is a decision that will change his life. George tells his mother about Job Corps, which would require him to move to Pleasanton, California. Nancy wants George to turn his life around from the crimes he’s been committing, so she encourages him to join Job Corps. She advises, “Do it right. Don’t come running back home because you miss me. Finish what you started.”

At the Job Corps facilities, George and several other men have to sleep in one large room with separate beds. One of the other Job Corps enrollees is a guy named Desmond, nicknamed Des (played by John Magaro), who’s much older than George, probably by 10 to 15 years. Desmond is vague about why he’s enrolled with Job Corps, but he’s an obvious alcoholic, since he’s frequently shown in the movie taking swigs from flasks of alcohol.

George is standoffish to Desmond at first when Desmond tries to befriend him. George also loses his temper when Desmond plays music on a turntable while George is trying to study. But one day, the ice between them is broken when they sit at the same table in a cafeteria.

Desmond tells George that the cafeteria has more brownies than beans because Desmond told Job Corp management that more money could be saved if brownies were bought instead of beans. Since George likes brownies, he has newfound respect for Desmond, who brags that he’s good with numbers. Later, when George becomes a successful boxer, he asks Desmond (who still has a drinking problem) to be his “money man.” And you can easily predict how that business partnership will work out.

While enrolled in Job Corps, George nearly gets expelled for violent fighting. He begs a Job Corps gym manager named Doc Broadus (played by Forest Whitaker) to let him stay in Job Corps. Doc gives George one last chance to redeem himself. Doc tells George that George should learn to channel his anger into boxing. Doc, a former boxer and a U.S. Air Force veteran, volunteers to train George. And so begins George’s journey to boxing greatness.

One person who isn’t happy to hear about George taking up boxing is his mother Nancy. When George calls her to tell her about it, she expresses worry and concern for his safety and health. However, what looks phony about this poorly written scene is that Nancy is surprised when George tells her that boxing is considered a sport. Are we supposed to believe that Nancy is that ignorant? Are we supposed to believe that she’s never heard of professional boxing? Apparently so, because when George tells her about it, she acts like she never heard of it.

It doesn’t take long for George to set big goals for himself. He tells a skeptical Doc that he wants to be in the 1968 Olympics, which is a goal that 19-year-old George accomplishes after being in boxing training for one year. And he wins the Olympic gold medal that year in the heavyweight division. George also achieves other goals that he set for himself, including defeating Joe Frazier (played by Carlos Takam), and eventually becoming a world heavyweight champion. During his rise to the top, George has a longtime professional relationship with trainer Archie Moore (played by Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), who was also a champion boxer in his heyday.

But you know a George Foreman biopic is bad when Muhammad Ali upstages George every time Muhammad is seen in the movie. Sullivan Jones has the role of Ali, who was Foreman’s biggest boxing rival for years. Jones has more physical resemblance to Ali than Davis has to Foreman, but a physical resemblance shouldn’t be the most important thing about a performance of a real person. What makes Jones’ performance as Ali so watchable (and one of the few highlights of the movie) is that he skillfully captures the voice cadence and cocky charisma of the real Ali.

Unfortunately, Davis’ portrayal of Foreman is very generic. For much of the movie, the character of George is a negative stereotype of an uneducated, angry black man who cheats on his wife. It isn’t until the last third of the film when there’s some spark to Foreman’s personality. He goes through a religious awakening and figures out that there could be more that he could be doing with his life than beating up men for a living.

But even when George shows a livelier side to himself than being a boxing brute, he just seems to be imitating Muhammad. George’s wisecracking in interviews in the latter part of the movie looks like it’s straight out of the Muhammad Ali media playbook. George’s religious awakening (he became a born-again Christian and a preacher) also pales in comparison to the real Ali, who converted from Christianity to Islam and became an outspoken activist as a result.

Meanwhile, as depicted in the movie, Foreman got some backlash from the African American community for carrying the American flag during his victory walk at the 1968 Olympics, where he won the gold medal in heavyweight boxing. That’s because there was a lot of civil unrest over how the American government was treating African Americans, and right-wingers were using the American flag as a symbol of wanting to keep government policies that violated civil rights. In “Big George Foreman,” George is seen brooding about being labeled as a “sellout” to his race. In response to this criticism, George opens community centers that do outreach to underprivileged people.

“Big George Foreman” does adequate recreations of some of Foreman’s most famous boxing matches, include his 1973 battle with Frazier that resulted in Foreman’s first world heavyweight championship title. Also recreated in the movie are the famous Rumble in the Jungle match in 1974 against Ali; the 1977 fight against Jimmy Young (played by David Jite); the 1987 comeback fight against Steve Zouski (played by Barry Hanley); the 1991 world heavyweight title match against Evander Holyfield in 1991; and the 1994 world heavyweight title match against Michael Moorer (played by Charles Brewer Jr.), which was probably the most “Foreman as the underdog” fight of Foreman’s career.

Ali and Foreman each had multiple failed marriages that ended in divorce. The 2001 biopic “Ali” (directed by Michael Mann and starring Will Smith in the Oscar-nominated title role) depicted all four of Ali’s marriages. In real life, Foreman has been married five times. “Big George Foreman” only depicts his first marriage and fifth marriage. In addition, since the movie ends in the 1990s, not all of Foreman’s 12 children are mentioned in the movie.

The movie shows George meeting his first wife Paula (played by Shein Mompremier) at the Oakland Airport in California, after he’s famous enough to be on the cover of magazines. She’s assertive and independent. When he tries to ask for her phone number, she teases him, “Your footwork is better than your pickup game.” (In real life, Foreman’s first wife was named Adrienne. They were married from 1971 to 1974.)

The marriage of George and Paula falls apart because of his chronic infidelity. The movie makes it look like all of George’s mistresses were homewrecking temptresses who aggressively pursued him. Although there’s a scene in the movie where an apologetic George expresses regrets about how he ruined his marriage to Paula by cheating on her, it’s in the context of how it’s mainly hurting him because he’s in turmoil over custody and visitation of the children he had with Paula.

George meets his fifth and current wife Mary Joan (played by Jasmine Mathews) under very different circumstances than how he met Paula. His boxing career is on the decline, and she’s wary of his romantic pursuit of her because she knows he has reputation for being a cheater. Mary Joan is also very religious. She wants George to retire from boxing if they get married. As in real life, the movie shows that Mary Joan and George got married in 1985.

So much of “Big George Foreman” just goes through the motions of the over-used story arc structure of celebrity biopics: First there’s the rise of the celebrity, then there’s the fall, and then there’s the comeback. It’s just all done in such a perfunctory way in this movie, it looks like bland chapters in a watered-down book, rather than a true cinematic storytelling experience that is revelatory and creative.

The film editing for “Big George Foreman” is sometimes choppy. In one scene that takes place in 1977, George has collapsed after his fight with Young in Puerto Rico. His colleagues tell George that they thought he was dead. George replies, “I was. Jesus Christ is alive in me.” And the next scene cuts to George being a preacher in 1978. There’s no depiction of him going through the physical recovery of this near-death collapse.

Whitaker turns in a fairly good performance as boxing trainer Doc, but Whitaker is really not doing anything new or exciting in “Big George Foreman,” because he’s played “tough but tender” mentors before in many other on-screen roles. The character of Desmond is oddly placed. He’s in several scenes in George’s rise to the top. But then, Desmond is not seen or mentioned for a long stretch of the movie, until Desmond makes an appearance for one of the movie’s most melodramatic sequences that takes place in the 1980s.

One of the most incongruous things about “Big George Foreman” is that it makes a big deal out of showing that George’s mother Nancy and George’s fifth wife Mary Jane were opposed to George’s boxing, out of concerns for his safety and health. However, when George is on the comeback trail in his 40s, there’s a big disconnect in this narrative: Nancy and Mary Jane are shown enthusiastically cheering on George at a time in his life when his health was even more at risk as a professional boxer, because of his age and overweight physique. The movie gives no explanation for this drastic change in attitude from Nancy and Mary Jane.

“Big George Foreman” has some attempts at comedy that look like ideas that were rejected from a second-rate sitcom. Even the story of the George Foreman grill business is rushed through the movie and depicted as a fluke idea that Foreman did not predict would become the success that it became. “Big George Foreman” takes a larger-than-life story and shrinks it into something that ends up becoming a basic “by the numbers” biopic with too much unrealistic sappiness and not enough authentic grit.

Affirm Films will release “Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World” in U.S. cinemas on April 28, 2023.

Review: ‘Catch the Fair One,’ starring Kali Reis

June 27, 2021

by Carla Hay

Kali Reis in “Catch the Fair One” (Photo by Ross Giardina)

“Catch the Fair One”

Directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. state, the dramatic film “Catch the Fair One” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Native Americans, African Americans and Asian Americans) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: A former boxing champ goes on a dangerous vendetta to find out what happened to her missing younger sister.

Culture Audience: “Catch the Fair One” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in suspenseful thrillers that explore issues of human trafficking, race and social class.

Kali Reis and Michael Drayer in “Catch the Fair One” (Photo by Ross Giardina)

How far would you go to search for a missing loved one? It’s question that viewers will think about when watching the dramatic film “Catch the Fair One,” which is about a tough boxer who goes on a difficult and often-violent journey to look for her missing younger sister, whom she believes has been kidnapped by human traffickers. Anchored by a memorable performance by Kali Reis, “Catch the Fair One” is more than just a crime vendetta story. It’s also about inequalities in race and social class, told from a Native American perspective that’s rarely shown on screen.

“Catch the Fair One,” written and directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka, had its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. And it’s easy to see why the movie won the festival’s Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. What could have been a very formulaic and predictable story is really a taut thriller that takes a few unexpected twists and turns along the way while letting viewers see the world through the viewpoint of a very unique character.

Some viewers might have a hard time believing that Reis’ Kaylee Uppeshaw character can be capable of doing some of the extreme things that she does in the movie and still keep going. But viewers who might be put off by any seemingly improbable moments have to remember that Kaylee is someone who’s desperate and feels like she’s got nothing left to lose. It goes a long way in explaining many of her reckless actions.

Kaylee, whose nickname is K.O., used to be a boxer until a back injury essentially ended her boxing career. The movie doesn’t mention where in the U.S. that this story takes place, but “Catch the Fair One” was actually filmed in New York state. Kaylee now lives in a women’s shelter and works as a waitress at a small diner. And she’s apparently so financially desperate that she steals food from the diner’s kitchen. The diner’s manager Missy (played by Faye Lone) is aware of this theft, so she discreetly tells Kaylee that if Kaylee ever needs food, she can tell the kitchen workers before her shift, and they will set aside food for her.

Kaylee used to be an International Boxing Association middleweight champ (just like Reis in real life), but was never super-famous. Kaylee did well-enough in boxing that she became a local hero of sorts. (There are flahsback scenes of Kaylee boxing, so viewers can see how talented she is.) While working at the diner one day, a teenage boy approaches Kaylee and asks to take a selfie photo with her. She politely obliges. When the fan asks Kaylee why she doesn’t box anymore, she says it’s because of her bad back.

There’s a lot more than an abbreviated boxing career or her back injury that bothers Kaylee. She’s haunted by the disappearance of her younger teenage half-sister Weeta Uppeshaw, who has been missing since November 23, 2017. (Weeta, who is shown in photos and flashbacks, is played by Mainaku Borrero.) Kaylee attends a support group for loved ones of missing and murdered children, but it doesn’t really ease much of her pain.

Kaylee is biracial: Her mother Jaya (played by Kimberly Guerrero) is Native American, while her father (who is not seen in the movie) is of Cape Verdean heritage. Although she is biracial, Kaylee identifies as Native American, and almost everyone in her social circle is Native American, including her closest friend/trainer Brick (played by Shelly Vincent), a very butch-looking lesbian. However, Kaylee has a strained relationship with her mother.

There are several different reasons why this mother and daughter could be estranged from each other, but one of the main reasons seems to be that Jaya might blame Kaylee for Weeta’s disappearance. It’s assumed that Weeta has been kidnapped, because she’s described as a good and obedient teenager who wouldn’t run away. The question that haunts Weeta’s family and other loved ones is: Is Weeta dead or alive?

Kaylee also happens to be a lesbian or queer woman, and there are hints that Kaylee’s mother doesn’t approve of Kaylee’s sexual identity. There’s a scene in the movie where Kaylee meets with her mother to reluctantly ask for some money. Kaylee mentions that she broke up with a girlfriend named Megan two years ago, while her mother doesn’t seem to care to discuss Kaylee’s love life.

And there’s another reason why Kaylee and her mother have tension in their relationship: Kaylee is a recovering opioid addict (heroin was her drug of choice), so when she asks her mother for money, Jaya responds by saying that she won’t give Kaylee any money unless she’s certain that Kayla is really clean and sober. It’s an emotionally charged scene, filled with simmering resentments that partially come to the surface. Kaylee angrily blurts out to her mother to admit that Jaya wishes that Kaylee, not Weeta, should be been the daughter who went missing. Jaya never admits it, but this outburst is an example of how, even before Weeta’s disappearance, Kaylee felt like her mother treated her as inferior to Weeta.

Early on in the movie, a private investigator tells Kaylee that he has reason to believe that Weeta has been kidnapped by sex traffickers. Brick knows some shady characters, and one of them is a blonde prostitute named Lisa (played by Isabelle Chester), who secretly meets with Brick and Kaylee because the word is out that Kaylee is desperate to find Weeta. Lisa says that she recruits prostitutes for a thug named Danny (played by Michael Drayer), who uses the nickname The Bird. Lisa shows Kayla a picture of a teen prostitute who looks like Weeta, and she tells Lisa that this teenager currently works for a pimp named Bobby (played by Daniel Henshall), who is Danny’s boss.

This information sets Kaylee off on quest by herself to find Bobby, because she figures that once she finds Bobby, she might find Weeta or at least information on where Weeta could be. The rest of the movie shows what happens on this treacherous journey, which also involves Bobby’s other family members: his wife Linda (played by Tiffany Chu); their underage son Bobby Jr. (played by Wesley Leung); Bobby’s father Willie (played by Kevin Dunn); and Bobby’s mother Debra (played by Lisa Emery).

Danny and Jeremiah (played by Sam Seward) are among the henchmen who come up against Kaylee, who is a formidable opponent. One of Kaylee’s quirks is that she keeps a razor blade hidden in her mouth, even when she’s sleeping. There’s a lot of brutal violence in the movie, including a home invasion that involves kidnapping, torture and murder. However, no matter what Kaylee does that can be considered heinous, Reis never loses humanity in her portrayal of Kaylee, who feels that she has run out of options. Kaylee might seem to be gritty and stoic, but her vulnerability is never far from the surface.

Kaylee does not have any plan except to find her sister, so she gets caught up in extreme situations that she does not anticipate. Although it’s not said outright in the movie, the context of her desperate search is that Kaylee has taken the law into her own hands because the police don’t care about finding a Native American girl, even a “good girl” like Weeta. If you consider that countless Native American females go missing, but their disappearances are rarely covered by the media, it’s easy to see why Kaylee feels that she’s not going to sit around and hope that law enforcement or the media will help in her search for Kaylee.

The 2017 crime thriller “Wind River” touched on this problem of U.S. law enforcement often sidelining Native American female crime victims, compared to white females who are victims of the same crimes. There’s no political preaching in “Catch the Fair One,” but the overtones about race and social class are there when it’s shown who are the men in charge of this human trafficking ring and why they feel so emboldened. “Catch the Fair One” does not offer any simple solutions to this systemic problem, because simple solutions realistically and tragically often don’t exist.

UPDATE: IFC Films will release “Catch the Fair One” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on February 11, 2022.

2019 DOC NYC movie review: ‘Tyson’

November 18, 2019

by Carla Hay

Mike Tyson in “Tyson” (2019)

“Tyson”

Directed by David Michaels

World premiere at DOC NYC in New York City on November 9, 2019.

Not to be confused with the 2009 Mike Tyson documentary “Tyson” (directed by James Toback), this new “Tyson” documentary (directed by David Michaels) is also about Mike Tyson, but it’s an updated look at the former boxing champ’s life. There’s also another movie called “Tyson,” which was a 1995 HBO biopic, starring Michael Jai White as Tyson. The filmmakers of the Michaels-directed “Tyson” movie made a huge mistake by choosing this title for the film, since it’s bound to confuse people who might think the movie is the other “Tyson” documentary. So with all these “Tyson” movies in the world, how is this second documentary different from the first one?

For starters, the Michaels-directed “Tyson” documentary doesn’t cover anything new in Tyson’s pre-2008 life that wasn’t already covered in the Toback-directed first “Tyson” documentary. The Michaels-directed “Tyson” documentary should’ve had a title like “The Redemption of Mike Tyson.” That’s essentially the theme of the film, as it pushes a narrative that Tyson is now an upstanding family man, after having a long history of violence and abuse against others. Tyson is interviewed in the documentary, as well as his current and third wife, Kiki; his daughter Mikey; his son Amir; his biographer Larry Sloman; his addiction specialist Sean McFarland; and his longtime friends Dave Malen, Al B. Sure and Damon Elliott. It’s a very one-sided narrative, because Tyson’s critics are not interviewed at all.

The 2009 “Tyson” documentary was unique because Tyson was the only person interviewed for the movie; the rest of the film consisted of archival footage. The result was that the 2009 “Tyson” documentary was rambling and flawed, but a riveting and unflinching look at Tyson’s troubled soul. There were things he said in that first documentary that would be cause for alarm in this #MeToo era. For example, he called his rape accuser Desiree Washington “wretched swine,” and admitted that although he “took advantage” of many women, he didn’t take advantage of her. He also vividly described how he liked to sexually dominate women.

Even though Tyson was convicted in 1992 of raping former beauty contestant Washington, and he spent three years in prison for it, he still denies committing the crime. His denial is more muted in Michaels’ “Tyson” documentary (which doesn’t have the victim-shaming language the first “Tyson” documentary had), but Tyson’s anger over spending time in prison for the crime is still palpable.

His short-lived, disastrous first marriage to actress Robin Givens (who was married to Tyson from 1988 to 1989) is portrayed in the Michaels-directed documentary as mostly her fault, even though Tyson has admitted in previous interviews that he physically and emotionally abused her. In this documentary, Givens and her mother are described as nasty, lying gold diggers who targeted Tyson to con him into marrying Givens, because she allegedly lied to him about being pregnant. Although Tyson shed tears in both documentaries when discussing his traumatic childhood, his past mistakes, and deaths of loved ones, director Michaels portrays Tyson in a much more filtered, sympathetic way than what viewers see in director Toback’s “Tyson” documentary, because Michaels allows several Tyson family members and associates to constantly defend him and insist that Tyson is one of the sweetest people they’ve ever met.

In the Toback-directed documentary, Tyson was divorced from his second ex-wife, Monica Turner, and had not yet begun the next chapter in his life as a professional entertainer. Tyson made a comeback in pop culture with his memorable cameo playing himself in the 2009 blockbuster comedy film “The Hangover.” In 2014, Tyson became the co-creator and star of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim animated series “The Mike Tyson Mysteries.” In the Michaels-directed documentary, Tyson admits he was still strung out on drugs during his “Hangover” comeback period, and it took him several years and multiple stints in rehab to get to where he is now.

Tyson claims he’s now clean and sober, and that his kids (he currently has seven children by three different women) are now his top priority. (One of the movie’s opening scenes is of Tyson accompanying his daughter Milan to her tennis game.) His wife Kiki is described as a “breath of fresh air” and an “angel,” but like a carefully Photoshopped and curated Instagram account, her marriage to Tyson, as it’s presented in this movie, looks too good to be true. The cracks show when Tyson admits that he’s never been faithful to his wives and partners, and that infidelity is one of the main reasons why he’s had a string of failed relationships. Kiki also acknowledges that she and Tyson often argue, but family members (including her parents) say she’s strong-willed and is no pushover.

Kiki describes their rocky courtship as something she chose to endure in order to get a so-called happy ending. They started dating when she was 19, and he was 29, and he broke her heart when he abruptly married second wife Monica in 1997. After Monica and Tyson divorced in 2003, Kiki and Tyson reunited and got married in 2009, the same year that Tyson’s 4-year-old daughter Exodus tragically died from an accidental strangling by exercise equipment. It’s a loss that Tyson says he’ll never get over, and his most sympathetic moment in the movie is when he cries as he talks about losing Exodus.

One of the recurring themes in both “Tyson” documentaries is how he describes himself as a “pig” but also “generous” to a fault, and how he lost millions to what he calls “leeches” in his life, which led to him declaring bankruptcy in 2003. Based on the lavish spending by him, Kiki and ex-wife Monica (he openly talks about these spending sprees in the film), his money problems won’t be going away anytime soon.

Tyson has stayed out of trouble for years, so maybe he really has changed into someone who no longer abuses drugs, alcohol or women. Maybe he really is no longer the conflicted bully that he had the reputation of being for most of his life. But if there’s another documentary about him in 10 years (and please let it have another title besides “Tyson”), we’ll have to see if this reformed Mike Tyson is real or is a façade.

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