Following the trends of recent Thai cinema comes another lady-boy flick — Beautiful Boxer. Like other transgender films of recent times, Beautiful Boxer uses a plot that’s constructed around a true story: in this case, the subject is the ultra-famous champion Muay-Thai boxer Nong Toom, who fought professionally to raise money for a sex change operation.
The first 10 minutes of the film opens with a foreign journalist lost and in trouble with some local thugs. Luckily, Nong Toom turns up in the nick of time to apply a deserved beating to the wannabe thugs, before calmly seating herself down at a local cafe to narrate her life story. What heroics! At this point I’m thinking that Nong Toom should join the Justice League alongside Batman and Wonder Woman. With this opening, director Ekachai Uekrongtham gives a sense of the ethereal to Nong Toom, and throughout the film this ethereality is juxtaposed with the serious emotional problems consequent upon Nong Toom’s desire to become a woman. The juxtaposition between two highly contrasting moods doesn’t always do the film good — it becomes a mess that is too much to untangle (particularly towards the film’s closing moments).
Despite these slight flaws, this film from first-time filmmaker Ekachai Uekrongtham will ultimately satisfy and entertain most people. The story of Nong Toom’s life is worthy of any best-selling book — particularly her earlier years which are not widely known. The acting performances are outstanding, regardless of the fact that the lead actor playing Nong Toom is actually a Muay-Thai boxing champion named Asanee Suwan.
Uekrontham has also succeeded in creating a film that is beautifully stylized. At times, the somewhat painterly images combine with the right amount of physicality to produce a sense of awe, thus emphasizing Nong Toom’s heroicness. Also, for those who have cravings for more Ong Bak style ass whoopin’, you will be pleased to know that the Muay-Thai bouts are enormously satisfying, with Nong Toom swiftly and acrobatically beating down prejudice-ridden boxers while in drag. Of course, this satisfaction is only possible when you have a Muay-Thai champion as your lead.
Beautiful Boxer is a biopic that ultimately satisfies: a mixture of brawn and brains.