From first-time director Ekachai Uekrongtham comes a heartwarming and touching story of a Muay Thai boxer named Parinya Charoenphol, who overcomes the odds and lives his dream to become a woman. Filled with a phenomenal performance by real-life Muay Thai champion Asanee Suwan and exhilirating ring fight sequences, Beautiful Boxer is not unlike films like Rocky and Raging Bull as this is based on the true story of Nong Toom.
Parinya Charoenphol is a young man who since being a child, has long wanted to be a woman. Always facing ridicule from others, Parinya even has been beaten at times by both other kids and his mother. After spending days as a monk, Parinya one day sees a group of potential Muay Thai boxers training. Parinya decides to train in the sport.
At first, Parinya finds the training brutal. Techniques include lifting two weights on a rope using the teeth and hitting the abdominals with a weight ball while doing sit-ups. With the help of his trainer Pi Chart, Parinya becomes determined to overcome the odds and soon, under the name “Black Eagle”, begins to compete in small bouts. It is not long before he begins to compete in championship bouts in the famous Lumpini Stadium in Bangkok.
However, the inner woman comes out and Parinya, now going by his childhood name of Nong Toom, begins to wear make up in the ring. Of course, at first, he is ridiculed but it is not long after that, his methods become accepted. However, he decides to make a very fateful decision, one that will change his life forever.
This very touching 2003 Thai film may make potential viewers cringe when they hear what the film is about. However, upon viewing it, the viewer will understand what the character of Parinya/Nong Toom must endure to fulfill his wish. Ekachai Uekrongtham successfully has taken the long read subject of the former male kickboxing champion turned female and came up with a Rocky-esque quality that is shown in flashback mode. We learn that Parinya has felt the way he has since he was a child at the Chiang Mai Festival where he gets disgusted with Muay Thai yet sees a female performer on stage. This becomes the catalyst for the story of Nong Toom as we see him go from a child who is both ridiculed and accepted to a monk who travels to a predominant Muay Thai champion. .
What will astound viewers is that the actor chosen to play Toom had no acting experience whatsoever prior to nabbing the role. However, what stood out was not only does he bring a natural panache to the role, but he also has the skills to match. Asanee “Art” Suwan, who is a well-known Muay Thai champion in Thailand, brings charisma to the role of Parinya, from one who endures the harsh training of Muay Thai to realizing his dream to become a woman and mixing the two sides of the spectrum very nicely. Aside from delving out the fantastic Muay Thai skills that made him a champion fighter, Suwan brings out the dramatic acting skills that would go on to earn him the Best Actor Award at the Thailand version of the Academy Awards. Thespian enthusiasts will love Suwan’s dramatic performance as he overcomes all obstacles to get what he wants, and succeeds.
Sanae Taptimthong serves as the fight choreographer of the film. He choreographed the realistic kickboxing fights in the film as well as another well done fight where Toom takes on a group of thugs to protect a reporter. With this particular fight looking somewhat what many expect in a typical martial arts action film, it is the kickboxing sequences themselves that stand out. Uekrongtham must have somehow taken a page from Martin Scorsese as they have a Raging Bull quality in terms of editing and cinematography to them. Filled with real contact between the fighters, this all makes the action very impressive in the sense that you are, in fact, watching some real Muay Thai action in the ring.
Suwan wows the screens in the ring and in a surprise appearance, he even takes on Japanese female wrestler Kyoko Inoue in a bout that emulates the real life Toom-Inoue fight in Japan, which took place in 1988. The real Nong Toom herself makes a cameo appearance as a facial masseuse in the film, showing her support for her story being seen on screen.
Beautiful Boxer is a heartwarming, touching story of a fighter who longs to live a lifelong dream. Overcoming the obstacles that try to prevent him, he finally succeeds and a new person literally emerges. A wonderfully shot and scripted film from first timer Ekachai Uekrongtham.
WFG RATING: A
A GMM Pictures Ltd. production. Director: Ekachai Uekrongtham. Producer: Ekachai Uekrongtham. Writers: Desmond Sim and Ekachai Uekrongtham. Cinematography: Choochart Nantitanyatada.
Cast: Asanee Suwan, Sorapong Chatree, Orn-Anong Panyawong, Nukkid Boonthong, Sitiporn Niyom, Somsak Tuangmuka, Kyoko Inoue, Sarawuth Tangchit, Natee Pongsopol,