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Time Out says
Thanks to ‘Girlfight’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby’, the idea of women in the ring no longer qualifies as a cinematic sucker punch. Sparring with notions of gender rather than sex, ‘Beautiful Boxer’ offers something slightly different: the true story of Parinya Charoenphol – renamed Nong Toom – a poor teenager from Chiang Mai who became a kickboxing sensation when he started fighting in make-up and saving his winnings for a sex change. ‘Rocky’ meets ‘Priscilla’ in Patpong, then? Well, ‘Beautiful Boxer’ certainly cleaves to a familiar template of self-empowerment through ordeal, though Toom’s story – from pre-pubescent glamour-fan to repressed junior monk, cash-strapped novice fighter to surprise champ – is more interesting than the script’s flashback structure, banal exposition and weepy-defiant be-true-to-yourselfisms. As Toom, real-life muay thai fighter Asanee Suwan cuts a winsome, ingratiating figure – but this is apt enough given the character’s shyness. Less rough diamond than delicate flower, Toom is intimidated by the cocky swagger of the shower room or weigh-in; the predatory media attention to which he is subjected becomes a grotesque exaggeration of the closet-dweller’s fear of scrutiny.Toom’s public coming-out – his first bout fought in make-up – is the film’s most impressive sequence, converging the two streams of his life, glamour and combat, and raising questions about the overlap of these distinct forms of display. Fight and dance, violence and grace are never married as successfully here as in, say, ‘Beau Travail’, but they rub up to produce some nice effects: preparation for the big fight involves not push-ups and punchbags but steam baths and facials.