Disgraced Kickboxer Shines on Big Screen

His humiliating showing in the ring last month apparently all but forgotten, top Cambodian kickboxer Ei Phouthang’s feature film debut is proving to be a blockbuster to the delight of fans and the relief of the film’s producers.

Lux Theater sold about 3,000 tickets for Saturday’s premiere of “Lightning Kick Bodyguard,” said producer Ngan Sivutha of Rasmey Peanmeas Production, which made the film for about $50,000.

“I never expected that we could get strong support from moviegoers on this story,” he said on Sunday.

The success of “Lightning Kick Bodyguard” and the boxer’s burgeoning acting career seemed threatened last month, when Ei Phouthang, 28, copped a seven-month suspension from the sport amid allegations that he threw a May 6 fight. Ei Phouthang denied taking bribes, claiming his poor showing was the result of a leg injury caused by a dog bite.

On Sunday, the pugilist-turned-pop icon said he was pleased with the reception of filmgoers, many of whom shouted encouragement at the screen during the movie’s fight scenes.

“I also have been to the theater to watch the movie. I was very excited to see moviegoers pay attention to my performance,” said Ei Phouthang, who was paid $1,000 for his role.

That reaction is an improvement on fans’ response May 6, when the boxer fled the ring in a hail of water bottles fired from the crowd.

At his third viewing of the film on Sunday, boxing fan Kao Sovy, 23, said last month’s scandal had little bearing on his impression of the film.

“I love watching movies on Khmer kick boxing instead of love stories,” he said.

“Lightning Kick Bodyguard” is the story of a country fisherman, played by Ei Phouthang, who goes to Phnom Penh in search of a stolen antique sword. The fight scenes, the star assured, are accurate.

“I need to use my real capacity in fighting to perform. Otherwise, the story could not be real,” Ei Phouthang said.

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