A somewhat formulaic boxing move that still packs an emotional punch when it comes to the physical and mental battles of a world-weary fighter.
Bayonet follows the aftermath of Miguel “Bayonetta” Galindez’s (Luis Gerardo Méndez) professional boxing career; a career ended abruptly following an undisclosed in-ring incident.
Miguel, or “Mickey” as his Scandinavian associates refer to him, is working for his old trainer, Denis (Brontis Jodorowsky), in Finland. There is no real explanation as to how they arrived there, but its omission fits the film’s pseudo-theme of forgetting the past. The opening scenes emphasize his post-career battles with alcohol while trying to maintain some semblance of a life. He is a skinny husk of his boxing prime, ragged and sloppy in demeanor; he never arrives at the gym he works at on time and this is noted by Denis. His sorrow spills across every facet of his life, his training career, the constant drinking and the shattered relationship he has with his wife and daughter, who he left in Tijuana, Mexico. All of this leads the viewer to believe you’re in for another typical riches-to-rags-to-riches fairytale.
As the film progresses Mickey has a couple of encounters with a reindeer, which is strange considering he’s in a city, but whenever the reindeer appears Mickey takes note. It stops him dead in his tracks and is honestly the only time you see any real animation from him. The deer is a pious symbol, the tall antlers being that bit closer to god and true happiness, and the fact a stag can regrow their antlers often find them being used in film as an archetypal sign of impending regeneration.
Mickey trains a Finnish boxer by the name of Remu (Joonas Saartamo). Remu takes Mickey to a bar for a drink where he meets Remu’s sister-in-law, Sarita (Laura Birn); Miguel shows a whisper of romantic intrigue but nothing fruitful in their initial encounter. Later on, Mickey and Sarita expectedly hook up. During this hook up Mickey realises she is widowed and it is only in a later conversation he has with Remu that you discover her husband was a prolific boxer who failed to retire at a suitable age and ended up punch-drunk, eventually drinking himself into a suicidal state and plunging into a Swedish Fjord during the winter.
Mickey’s tenuous phone relationship with his daughter and the tragic news of Sarita’s husband seem to rekindle a flame inside him; he asks Denis to begin training him again, a proposition immediately dismissed by Denis, who seems to know the effect Mickey’s fall from fame has had on him and heeds the warning signs. Remu loses his big fight and the gym owner, Jyrki (Ilkka Koivula), foolishly gambled the gym’s mortgage on Remu’s fight. Finding out they have just two months left on the mortgage, they form a trinity – owner, manager and fighter. This is the point you gain a real sense Mickey will get back to the top and overcome whatever adversity he previously suffered, and we notice a disappearance of the reindeer.
No such luck. Mickey experiences glimmers of success, but also quickly plummets into the hectic tornado of alcohol abuse once again, and the true extent of Mickey’s past is unveiled in flashbacks. Bayonet is a film that highlights how a cocktail of post-traumatic stress disorder and match-fixing within boxing can have a macabre lasting effect on the fighter, but like a double-edged sword, it also showed Mickey that the only thing he’s ever known, the only thing he says he is good at, boxing, is his worst enemy and will never bring him happiness and that his family will be the only way he can ever rebuild a life.
It is fitting that his crisp, stabbing-like punching earned him the nickname “bayonet”, as a bayonet is exactly the thing used in war to deliver the final blow to a downed opponent on the edge of life. However, the final blow for Mickey paradoxically gave him another chance at life.
This review was written by guest contributor David Yates.