Reviewed by Wong Lung Hsiang
Director: Ekachai Uekrongtham
Writing Credits: Desmond Sim
Cast: Asanee Suwan, Sorapong Chatree, Om-Anong Panyawong, Nukkid Boonthong
Genre: Action Drama
Year Released: 2003
Runtime: 118 min
Based on a true story of Nong, a Thai tranvestite-boxer-turned-transgendered-actress, we would naturally compare Beautiful Boxer with Iron Ladies I & II. Surprisingly, Beautiful Boxer is a much better movie that Iron Ladies, not only for its neater script and execution, but also its sincere and subtle treatment of the subject matter.
Unlike Iron Ladies, Beautiful Boxer doesn't fall into the trap of (almost mandatory, but inappropriate) incorporation of gay elements, exploitation of the exoticism and the "clowning potential" of transvestites, or over-melodramatization of social prejudice. Instead, it spends a great deal of screen time in visually (i.e., using fantasy sequences, flashbacks, symbols and well-crafted actions) psychoanalyzing Nong that managed to balance sense and sensibility.
More importantly, the director managed to capture the hidden feminine side of Muaythai boxing without sacrificing its masculinity - and the seamless visual fusion of masculinity and femininity becomes an excellent metaphor of the coming-of-age allegory of Nong.
But the most poignant moments of Beautiful Boxer, in my opinion, are the three appearances of Nong's alter-ego, a long-haired girl who comes out from nowhere and than disappears in no time - and the three appearances took place at the major psychological turning points of Nong. The alter-ego who ages as Nong's real-self is always so close, and yet faraway from "her" ... until the final moment of the film when her postoperative real-self bid final farewell to her male illusion in the mirror, the karma, as predicted by a traveling monk that "she" encounters when she was a little boy, is fulfilled.