Beautiful Boxer

"Excellent"

Beautiful Boxer Review


If you don't book a ticket for Thailand the minute you finish watching Beautiful Boxer then you weren't paying attention. Writer/director Ekachai Uekrongtham takes you on a hugely entertaining tour of the country, racing from gorgeous mountaintop farms to Buddhist monasteries to the frantic streets of Bangkok while telling the true tale of one young man's Rocky-like quest to be the best... but with a very big twist. Million Bhat Baby, anyone?

The amazing Asanee Suwan stars in the extremely challenging role of Nong Toom Parinya Charoenphol, a teenage transvestite who somewhat reluctantly kickboxes his way to fame and fortune in order to help out his impoverished family and save up for gender reassignment surgery. That's a lot for one movie to tackle, but Beautiful Boxer cheerily accommodates everything: the family struggles, the Buddhism, the sexual identity crisis, the training, the fighting, and the lip gloss.

In flashback we travel to Chang Mai province, where three-year-old Toom is already displaying a desire to play dress up. Bullied by other children for his sensitivity, Toom turns to his mother for comfort, but she paddles him for allowing himself to be bullied, telling him he must always stand up for himself.

The family dispatches Toom to a nearby monastery to become a novice monk, but he must race off to do odd jobs and help on the family farm plot, and eventually the abbot decides the best course of action is to send Toom on the road with an itinerant monk. He dutifully goes, but after a while, the monk realizes Toom isn't committed. Toom asks the monk whether he can accumulate enough good karma in this life to get what he wants in the next one. The monk reassures him that it may be possible for him to get what he wants in this life, and with that in mind, Toom heads home.

The teenage Toom and his brother end up spying on a kickboxing camp close to home and eventually get up the courage to wander in and check it out. Toom has little interest in fighting, but he shows a natural skill that attracts the eye of the coach, Pi Chart (no kidding!).\ (Ekachai Uekrongtham). When Toom says he's afraid of getting hurt, Pi Chart points out that good fighters don't get hurt.

Toom takes up residence at the camp only to find himself bunking and showering with dozens of horny teenage boys. He quickly becomes a standout fighter, but he's a nervous wreck, choosing to shower alone and sleep in a private corner. When his urge to experiment with lipstick becomes irresistible, the coach's wife gives him lessons, and surprisingly, Pi Chart is fine with it. When Pi Chart's boss, the publicity-hungry camp owner, finds out, he's thrilled; he gives Toom money to go out and buy waterproof makeup "so it won't run when you sweat."

And so Toom goes public, enduring savage taunting at first. When one competitor apes him by also wearing makeup and swishing around the ring, Toom tells him that "girls like you give girls like me a bad name" and then swiftly dispatches him with a roundhouse kick to the head. From there, it's a quick rise to the top. Toom is soon a national and international celebrity, and he inches closer and closer to his ultimate goal: to become a woman.

Production notes explain that Suwan was hired for his formidable kickboxing skills and was then subjected to a year-long course in beauty, poise, dance, and general transvestism to get him ready for the role. His hard work pays off big time. He's outstanding in the role, both in the ring, where he's a terrifying force (the fight scenes are fantastic), and outside it, where his wide eyes and shy smile have a girlish flirtatiousness and his classical Thai dance is elegant and graceful.

Though the movie puts forth plenty of clichés -- Be Who You Are! Never Give Up! Work Hard for Your Dreams! -- they're woven neatly into the gritty story and gently tinted with interesting Buddhist teachings that give the film its unique texture.

Beautiful Boxer is a trip to Thailand well worth taking. You'll be on Toom's side all the way through, and that's a good thing. You certainly wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of his avenging foot.

Pretty hard hitting.



Beautiful Boxer

Facts and Figures

Run time: 118 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 29th April 2004

Distributed by: Regent Releasing

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 28 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Nong Toom/Parinya Charoenphol, as Pi Chart, Orn-anong Panyawong as Nong Tooms Mutter, Nukkid Boonthong as Nong Tooms Vater, Sitiporn Niyom as Nat, Kyôko Inoue as Sich selbst (Weibliche Wrestlerin), Keagan Kang as Jack (Der Reporter), Sarawuth Tangchit as Nong Toom (als kleiner Junge), Natee Pongsopol as Nong Toom (als junger Mönch), Yuka Hyodo as Japanischer Fan

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