A Good But Largely Predictable Boxing Film
From Raging Bull and Rocky through to Jawbone and Apollo, boxing films are a constant presence in mainstream cinema and it’s easy to see why. The age-old underdog story is a tried-and-tested trope in film and next up to showcase its prowess in the ring is Netflix Original Bayonet. With a methodically paced, well-trodden narrative and a distinct character focus throughout, Bayonet does feels very familiar but its intense character focus does just enough to help it stand out from the crowd.
Beginning at the moment of rock-bottom despair, the story begins with retired Mexican boxer Miguel living in isolation within the snow-covered tranquility of Finland. Haunted by the ghosts of his past, Miguel struggles to regain balance in his life whilst working at a nearby Boxing Centre. When another chance at glory in the squared circle comes calling, Miguel snatches at his opportunity for redemption, setting to work training to prove himself, and everyone around him, he still has what it takes to fight.
For the most part, Bayonet pulls no punches, delivering the sort of story you’ve seen a million times before with these sort of sport films. There’s the usual array of training montages, the internal struggles and overcoming obstacles before the inevitable showdown at the end. Unlike films like Rocky, Bayonet strips away the fanfare and excitement around the fights itself, instead focusing its attention on Miguel instead. This does make Bayonet a pretty slow paced film, with plenty of dramatic beats and scenes away from the ring, accompanied by muffled audio during these sequences, to allow us to reflect on Miguel’s life choices.
While Bayonet has little in the way of surprises and sticks closely to the formulaic tropes you’d expect from this sort of film, there are some nice emotional peaks here that make the journey worth taking nonetheless. There’s little here to really differentiate itself from other sport films though and despite some good character work, there’s not much here that hasn’t been seen before in other films.
Bayonet is a constant reminder that sport films are the gift that keep on giving. There’s always a nice array of juxtaposing conflicts in these films between the physical and mental fights we have with ourselves and Bayonet takes this concept and runs with it. It’s not perfect, and at times the pacing does feel a little at odds with itself, but there’s enough here to make for an enjoyable watch nonetheless.
Verdict - 6/10