ESPN 30 for 30: One Night in Vegas (2010)

Directed by Reggie “Rock” Bythewood

Sports and music have seen a marriage over the years which only seems natural. Heck, even one of the earlier films in this series, Straight Outta L.A., chronicled the influence of football on west coast gangster rap and vice versa. So the fact that the sport of boxing, more specifically Mike Tyson, is closely associated with one of the most well known and celebrated rap artists of all time, Tupac Shakur, should not be surprising. But for me, having been just 6 years old when Shakur was tragically gunned down, I had no idea the two were linked, especially not in the manner which this film explores.

In 1994 Mike Tyson was set to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world, a title he had held previous to his prison sentence. The fight took place in September in Las Vegas and one of Tyson’s good friends, Tupac, was in attendance. The two had come together, inspired by each others work, bonding over their trials and tribulations, which included prison time for both, and great fame for impressive feats in their respective fields. But after Tyson won the title, Shakur was gunned down in the traffic which flowed out of the MGM Grand onto the streets of Las Vegas. He died 6 days later.

I have an immense appreciation for 2Pac and his music. I have an immense appreciation for Mike Tyson and his ability to dominate the sport of boxing during his prime. I have an immense appreciation for sports and music and how they go together, but I do not have an immense appreciation for this film due to the simple fact that it just was not very interesting. In many ways the film was not even about Mike Tyson and boxing, and much more a love song for Tupac Shakur. The problem with that not being that it was a love song for Tupac, because Tupac is a great and very interesting figure. The problem is that it does it in such an uninteresting and uninspired manner.

There seems to be a serious lack of context for everything going on. It goes through the typical ‘this is how they are connected and why it matters’ routine, but I was never convinced and having not really lived through it I can’t say I came out of the film knowing anything more than perhaps when and where Tupac Shakur died, which I didn’t know before. It is very basic in its narrative, but the problem is bigger than it just being basic. One of the bigger problems with the film is too many interviewees with not enough to say, for example Mickey Rourke. Rourke was a mutual friend of both and may have had some insight into their humanity and relationship which could have been beneficial, but instead Bythewood uses his experience for just a story which adds no real flavor.

I can say this, the film tried. It wasn’t completely dry, at least attempting to become inspired by some performers doing spoken word, one of which dressed with the famous 2Pac bandanna on his head. But that part of the film did not work for me either, probably because of the comic book theme that went with it, and which was sprinkled throughout the film. There is no grounding for this stylized choice other than to be different. Is Bythewood trying to comment on the fact that the event seemed unreal, as in a comic book? That the lives of Tupac and at the same time that of Tyson are cartoonish or in some way contain elements of superheroes facing off with their archenemies? Because if so I think that is reaching too high, something that I would actually say this film does way too little of.

** – Fair

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