Review: BEAUTIFUL BOXER บิวตี้ฟูล บ๊อกเซอร์ (2003) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Review: BEAUTIFUL BOXER บิวตี้ฟูล บ๊อกเซอร์ (2003)


Part ROCKY (1976) and part gay-themed movie, Singapore-based Ekachai Uekrongtham's BEAUTIFUL BOXER is a remarkable true story about a transgendered Thai kickboxer Parinya Charoenphol (renamed in the movie as Nong Toom) who fights in order to fund a sex change. Such fanciful biography is interesting enough to check out for, and BEAUTIFUL BOXER never fails to entertain in that manner. But the movie falters for the lack of depth (especially for its subject matter) and thoroughly cliched in its overall execution.

The movie begins with a Eurasian reporter named Jack (Keagan Kang) who is looking to interview kickboxing champ Nong Toom (Asanee Suwan). When Jack gets caught in a street tussle, Toom who dressed in red gown, rescues him and grants him an interview in a bar.

Soon the flashback unfolds way back when Toom is just a poor village boy (played by Sarawuth Tangchit) where his parents (Om-Anong Panyawong, Nukkid Boonthong) are farmers live in northern Chiang Mai province. During his childhood time, Toom begins to realize he is destined to be a girl -- in which he is frequently play with makeup and lipstick. Other boys see Toom as a laughing stock and ends up getting bullied. When his parents find out about this, they begin to worry sick and decide to send him to a Buddhist monastery. Despite occasional Buddhist training, Toom still has a thought of becoming a girl one day.

As a teenager, Toom still prefers flowers and act like a girl. But that night when his female friend, Pi Bua (Natcha Bootsri) is being bullied during a pre-kickboxing match in a local carnival, Toom ends up in a stage fight against the bully. Having no background in training whatsoever, he ends up knocking down the bully with just a kick in the head and wins a handful of cash. It is this particular fight that makes him interested in exploring Muay Thai kickboxing.

Not long after, he begins training with kickboxing master Pi Chart (Sorapong Chatree) at a local Muay Thai school and subsequently making a name for himself as "Black Hawk" on the provincial circuit. Match after match, it doesn't take long before Pi Chart finds out about Toom's double life. Instead of expelling him, Pi Chart accepts the truth and even grants him to wear makeup during subsequent match.

At the beginning, Toom's first fight in a full makeup is a laughing stock among the crowd but he still wins the opponent gracefully and Toom has instantly emerges as a public sensation. Seeing this as a perfect gimmick to promote his fighter, training-camp owner Pi Moo (Somsak Tuangmukda) gives Toom extra money to buy the waterproof variety.

A meteoric rise ensues as Toom arrives in Bangkok for his first-ever major competition broadcast live in national television. He ends up winning of course, but not without a string of controversy that follows throughout his subsequent career -- especially when he publicly announces his wish to undergo a sex change operation.

Desmond Sim Kim Jin and Ekachai Uekrongtham's screenplay is heartfelt and endearing, while the character of Nong Toom is easily to root for despite the controversial nature of his sexuality. Played by real-life kickboxer Asanee Suwan, his feature-acting debut is surprisingly impressive especially given the difficulty of portraying such character. Apart from him, the rest of the cast are equally excellent as well.

Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the story takes a safer approach to explore its subject matter as straightforward as possible with sheer simplicity. We never really learn what makes Nong Toom so eager and fascinated of undergoing the sex change other than the plot synopsis already told us. This is the kind of a controversial movie that is afraid to scratch beyond its surface, and it's actually sad for seeing that because BEAUTIFUL BOXER could have been a genre masterpiece. Another weakness is its sluggish pace, especially when the movie approaches to the second half.

Technical credits are ace, with Sanae Tuptimtong's exciting fight choreography and some gorgeous production design throughout the movie. But one particular inspiring set piece is the dreamlike imagery towards the finale where Toom waits for a bus at the stand alongside younger versions of herself.

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