It's hardly surprising that Parinyaya Charoemphol, aka Nong Toom, our hero(ine) in this biopic of Thailand's first cross-dressing kick-boxer, wonders if he's "a woman in a boxer's body or an animal in a circus show", when he is described as "Rocky with mascara". Ekachai Uekrongtham's film touchingly charts its protagonist's identity crisis while recreating his most violent scraps in lurid Ong-Bak style.
Played by real-life kick-boxer Asanee Suwan, Toom's love of make-up made him both icon and freak show. It's a remarkable story and Uekrongtham tells it with clarity by using the well-worn device of having a reporter quiz a post-sex op Charoemphol (now an actress) on her tumultuous past. The pacing is a little sluggish and the director treats his subject too reverently, but, when it connects, Beautiful Boxer hits hard and true.