Mike Tyson and Tupac Shakur were friends. This is the basic premise of the latest episode of ESPN’s 30 For 30 documentary series. One Night In Vegas was a random mixtape of angry spoken word poetry, comic book illustrations and seemingly random interviews that were all tied together using stories we’ve already heard and footage we’ve already seen. The end result is the Cliff’s Notes versions of two stories that happened to share a time line – and not much else.
Let me start by saying that I like Mike Tyson and Tupac. Tyson was one of the greatest fighters of all time. I like Tupac’s music and think he was a pretty damn good actor. Their lives and stories are really interesting. Here’s how ESPN billed One Night In Vegas:
They both spent time in jail. Tupac was a fan of Mike Tyson. Mike Tyson thought Tupac was a scary little dude. They partied together and Tupac wrote a special song for Tyson to walk out to before a fight. How incredibly remarkable.
Somebody drop a beat for Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.
“In one sense, Mike Tyson is Tupac in boxer shorts and Tupac is Mike Tyson with a microphone. I mean, they are the utter mirror images of one another. Misunderstood by the society around them. The society embraces their genius while its afraid of what they might ultimately represent. Both of them highly intelligent and both of them in their own ways, very articulate men.”
Mike Tyson’s legend is set yet his story continues to unfold. Over the last couple years, he’s reinvented himself. If ever there was an athlete that deserved a 30 For 30 documentary, its Iron Mike. Unfortunately, the definitive Tyson documentary was done two years ago. The man spent an hour with Oprah. Tyson alone renders this documentary pointless.
Instead of just moving on and coming up with another documentary, they tried to find a fresh approach. Enter Reggie Bythewood and Tyson’s friendship with Tupac.
Except for the fact that both stories share an era and the main characters’ paths cross, there’s barely enough there for 5 minutes worth of material on a I Love The 90’s episode. So we get the same old stories with comic book animation. Every bit of footage and all the stories – save Maya Angelou and Mickey Rourke, of course – are the same ones we’ve heard and seen for years.
Wait, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson has something else to say.
“Every time Mike Tyson took a swing at Bruce Seldon, Tupac in his own mind is taking a swing at all of the furious contradictions that represent the not that is his life.”
*nods head* Which brings me to director, Reggie Bythewood. For some unknown reason, ESPN turned to Reggie Rock Bythewood to spin this yarn. Yes, the same Reggie Rock Bythewood that directed Biker Boyz and… That’s about it.
As for the shooting, well, they summarize most of the stuff you’ve heard in the past in 10 minutes or so. What did I learn from this documentary? I learned who took the famous final picture of Tupac in the passenger seat of Suge Knight’s car right before the shooting. Leonard Jefferson. Dude was following Suge and Pac to the club.
The big emotional payoff is supposed to be when we’re told where everyone was when they hear that Tupac died. This is supposed to be one of those moments that unifies everyone. Not so much. Mickey Rourke was in Brazil. (If Mickey Rourke saying “I was in Brazil…” isn’t meme worthy, nothing is.) Chris Connelly tells us about a party at an MTV producer’s home the night Tupac died. When Connelly got there, there were candles everywhere. This is ridiculous.
Finally, the angry poetry.
This documentary should have been a homerun. Tupac and Tyson are two epic figures that the public seems to have an unending interest in. However, when you try and make connections that aren’t really there, its going to fall flat. Broken into short performance pieces, some work, others still fail. Heck, even the peotry slam inside the boxing ring (Which has as many walls as a prison cell!) might have been fine on its own. Darker comics than “Tupac Gets Shot” have worked. Hearing Mike Tyson talk about his relationship with Tupac is interesting. Trying to make me see a connection in Tupac’s death and Tyson never again holding a championship belt is not.
[Screen caps from the always awesome @Jose3030]