Beautiful Boxer

Starring: Asanee Suwan, Sorapong Chatree and Orn-Anong Panyawong
Tartan DVD
RRP: 19.99
TVD 3614
Certificate: 15
Available 23 January 2006

Nong Toom grows up in poverty in Thailand. From an early age he knows that he is a woman trapped in a mans body, a problem that causes him both internal and external conflict. He finds his salvation in the very male world of kickboxing. Although, accused of joining the sport to pay for a sex change operation, it is Toom's love of his family and the desire to earn money to help them that motivates him. As he grows to manhood he sheds the pretence about his real nature, fighting in makeup he becomes the famous beautiful boxer...

Beautiful Boxer, directed by Ekachai Uekrongthan, is one hell of a good film. It's funny, poignant and very violent. I've said it before and I'll say it again: thank god for Tartan Video, who have a knack of finding some of the finest films in the world, which you otherwise would never see outside of a film festival. Beautiful Boxer is a film from Thailand with a director who has won many awards for his theatrical work. If you are somewhat squeamish about foreign films because of the subtitles then Boxer might just be a nice compromise for you as a lot of the film is in English.

The acting is genuinely superb and I would find it difficult to criticise any of the cast, especially Asanee Suwan who imbues Toom with such an internal joy for life that his portrayal is infectious in the extreme. Toom is a gentle spirit on a journey to discover beauty. It's a complicated journey. Not only does Toom come to terms with the masculine beauty of kickboxing, but he fights for his right to create a beauty of himself. This is not an easy path to take. As he gradually transforms himself, he runs into problems with internal demons and external prejudice. Ultimately, the film is about the triumph of the spirit, Toom holds on to a level of honesty about his true self, which few of us could match.

Sound options are a generous Stereo, 5.1 and DTS. The DTS really is at its best during the fight scenes where the visceral pounding of the drums really drags you into the action. There are subtitles available, however, as I said previously, a lot of the film is in English, which allows the audience to really participate in the action and not spend their whole time reading.

On the extras side there is the original trailer, which really gives a taste of how of the visual beauty and heart pounding action of the film. The extras also contain three interviews. The first with director Ekachai Uekrongthan, in English, looks at the genesis of the film and his desire to tell the story, the second with Paringa Charoenphol, the real Toom discussing her reaction to the film. As this was a true story it was delightful to see the real person, she comes over just as sensitive and delightful as her film portrayal would suggest. Lastly, there is an interview with Asanee Suwan, who plays Toom in the film. I was surprised to discover that he had never really acted before as he was excellent in the role. Like Toom, he came from a poor family and became a boxer as a way of supporting his family. Lastly there is a 'Making of' documentary, in English, which looks at the background to the film. This is no 'weren't we all lovely' type of documentary, rather it's an in depth look at the reasons behind the films creation. One of the things I really liked was being able to watch the real Nong Toom fight, it helped root the film in reality.

Picture is spot on with the visuals being presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 ration, great for anyone who possesses a nice big TV, especially when showing the fight scenes.

A great film about the human spirit's ability to overcome even the worst circumstances and still create a thing of beauty. Buy it, you'll love it.

Charles Packer

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