Launch as part of Disney + Day, new drama Mike reveals the strength of boxing legend Mike Tyson in his prime, giving a new generation the change to experience the impact of this cultural icon firsthand.
With Karin Gist (Sister Act 3) on the duties of showrunner and creator Steven Rogers (Me, Tonia) fighting Tyson’s corner, Mike creates a portrait of this boxing legend who threw no punches.
Brought to life by Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), Mike turns out to be an excellent denunciation of a fighter who managed to get out of poverty.
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From the beginning Mike is a clever combination of formative flashbacks, voice acting and brutal boxing highlights. This makes it easy to bounce between dramatic passages, while allowing for inevitable time jumps that naturally occur within the narrative. Not only that, but it means that Rhodes is given ample opportunity to imbue his interpretation with a naturalism that draws on Tyson’s innate charisma.
Starting in 1974 with a young Mike (Zaiden James) accompanied by the current Tyson through voiceover, the audience receives a snapshot of his poor upbringing. Beaten and bullied by his peers, the violence is rooted in the story that portrays this aspiring champion as a shy and sensitive soul.
Downcast by Lorna Mae (Olunike Adeliyi), his world-weary mother, young Tyson finds a surrogate family among petty criminals, who exploit him for their own ends. When the story is punctuated with a snippet of his fight with Leon Spinks, teen Mike (BJMinor) takes over as he heads to a juvenile detention center. Where everything changes for him when Mike Tyson first meets boxing legend Teddy Atlas (Ethan Dubin).
This is where the young aspiring champion finds his calling, receives an education and meets someone who finally believes in him. Dubin is excellent in this supportive role by offering hard love and heartfelt encouragement, which propels Tyson to greatness. Through Teddy Atlas he was also introduced to Cus D’Amato (Harvey Keitel), who would become both his coach and his mentor in later years.
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There is no denying the contribution that Keitel makes in his role as D’Amato, giving this project both credibility and compliments through his involvement. It is a patronage that in the past has paid off to characters like Quentin Tarantino with his first feature film Hyenas. In Mike perfectly fulfills the brief together with Trevante Rhodes, who seems to simply disappear within his performance, going beyond vocal imitation into an unexplored physicality.
Beyond his sectarian charisma, which emerges so easily in those moments in the spotlight, Rhodes has also nailed the arrogance, insolence and seething aggression so essential among fighters. As Tyson’s record for first-round knockouts makes him richer than Midas at just twenty, Mike then he takes his time to document a descent into excess.
Followed by custom limos with whirlpools, fleets of luxury cars for friends and family, not to mention dozens of women who adore the heavyweight legend. As the money comes in and natural causes separate Tyson from D’Amato, Russell Hornsby (Fences) comes forward as boxing promoter Don King. King not only increases the earning potential of the Tyson brand at a pivotal time, but creates a load of new problems to boot.
Walking around the screen with all the swagger and high-end hairspray Don King was famous for, Russell Hornsby leaves burn marks in his wake as he chews every inch of the scenery. In direct correlation, Rhodes faces the challenge of this masterful performance through pure animal magnetism. It means the deeper you go Mike audience becomes more complex as this series becomes, as an unfortunate marriage to Robin Givens (Laura Harrier) and a rape conviction through Desiree Washington (Li Eubanks) destroy her public image.
With Margot Robbie among the executive producers, Mike he would never shy away from controversy in describing his life. Similar to Bombwho explored sexual harassment on the Fox network under Roger Eames, Mike benefits alike.
However, with this series, much of what happens took place in public under the watchful gaze of famous journalists. This means Mike it serves as a reminder to a new generation of transgressions for which this man has already paid his penance.
That said, this dramatization is in no way a pass for the former champion, neither supporting his actions nor releasing him from blame.
What Karin Gist and Steven Rogers have instead offered the public is an examination of a boxing icon who ultimately lived her life, made her choices and tried to learn from them.
Mike is available to stream on Disney + starting September 8. Watch a trailer below.