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Beautiful Boxer

Genre: Drama
Rated: N/A
Directed by
Released by: Regent Releasing

In Short: The biopic of a transgendered Thai kickboxer has an interesting premise, but slow pacing and loose-footed performances make it kind of a drag -- no pun intended.

Million Baht Baby
Boxing in Drag? Kind of a Drag.
By Andrew Bender

The premise: A male kickboxer who wears women’s makeup and knows how to accessorize. Didn’t wrestlers Hulk Hogan and Jesse Ventura make that old news with their boa-wearing antics decades ago? But the setting is Thailand, an accepting society where cross-dressing is not just for comic relief. Besides, the boxer in question is Parinya Charoenphol (also known as Nong Toom), who rose to sensational fame in Bangkok---not only for his colorful antics but for kicking some serious butt and undergoing a sex change.

Growing up in the northern province of Chiang Mai, Nong Toom always wanted to be one of the beautiful women that his province was known for. His mother did not mind that he played with girls or wore flowers in his hair, but she drew the line at allowing others to bully him. Naturally, he became a kick-boxer.

Toom may act like a sissy out of the ring and wear lipstick and blush in the ring, but he sure doesn’t fight like a girl. Drawing on resources (perhaps frustration?) from deep within, he wins knock-out after knock-out, climbs through the ranks and makes a pile of money, squirreling it away to pay for the operation that will make female. Fans love the novelty, and his boxing buddies take it in stride – instead of making him take off the makeup, his trainer tells him to buy some that won’t run.

Despite all this color, “Beautiful Boxer” occasionally feels as lackluster as its title. There are some acting blips as well with Asanee Suwan as the adult Nong Toom. While his performance is pleasant enough, it seems limited to two emotions: puppy-dog cute and don’t-mess-with-me fierce.

For a U.S. audience, the best reasons to see this film are to get a taste of Thailand (and exciting boxing sequences) and to imagine how the same characters would be portrayed in American entertainment. The Thais seem to be mostly unfazed; what would you do?

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