Beautiful Boxer

Beautiful Boxer


Reviewed by: Darren Amner

At first glance, you might wonder whether a transgender kick boxer, who fights like a man to become a woman, isn't the latest farcical comedy from The Farrelly Brothers. However, Beautiful Boxer is so moving and powerfully poignant, it is not hard to be sucker punched into the true story of Asia's most famous fighter Nong Toom (Asanee Suwan), who competes beyond the sheer physicality of his sport to fulfill a lifelong dream.

Toom has always known, even from a young age that he was different from other boys. Ever since he played dress up and wore lipstick for the first time, he knew something deeper inside was dying to get out to reveal whom he truly was. In an attempt to escape the spiraling poverty of his rural upbringing and to attain the money he so desperately requires for his sex change, he decides to practice and perfect the ancient martial art of Muay Thai.

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This is a story about identity and self-determination, told in a touching, funny manner, which never results in stereotyping and is as brutal as it is beautiful. The fights are ferocious slugfests, filled with blood, broken bones and bouquets of flowers. The director Ekachai Uekrongtham has a wonderful visual eye and frames his film like an operatic stage production, using bold bright colours and a somber score.

Suwan wears a tight six-pack and sequins in equal measure and his presence is as glistening and graceful as it is gritty. The more he is teased about his appearance in the ring, the more forceful his response and his opponents are regularly met with vicious elbows, high knees and savage kicks to the back of the head. As his popularity grows, so does the hatred from his opponents, who think he has dishonored the ancient art, while Toom sees his participation as a way of matching his heart with his body.

This fairytale of sorts - pardon the pun - is not Rocky with mascara. It's extremely refreshing and unlike anything you have ever seen, both captivating and compelling. Suwan, as the butt-kicking lady boy with the fragile youthful exuberance and fists of fire, demands your total attention every time he is on screen.

Uekrongtham's visual panache is reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann. The production design is rich and textured and lensed in a balletic flowing dreamlike fluidity. The film is brilliant and brave and highlights a personal inner struggle that is fight club with a fatal feminine blow to the heart.

Reviewed on: 26 Jan 2006
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True story about transgender kick boxer Nong Toom.
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Read more Beautiful Boxer reviews:

Anton Bitel **1/2

Director: Ekachai Uekrongtham

Writer: Desmond Sim, Ekachai Uekrongtham

Starring: Asanee Suwan, Sorapong Chatree, Orn-Anong Panyawong, Nukkid Boonthong, Sitiporn Niyom, Somsak Tuangmukda, Kyoko Inoue, Keagan Kang, Hyouda Yuka, Tanyabuth Songsakul, Sarawuth Tangchit, Natee Pongsopol, Nattama Narkpo, Chayaporn Tometh, Panuwath Kongsamuth

Year: 2003

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Thailand


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