How to describe The Boxer’s Omen? It proves an experience best viewed cold, as its target audience will delight in discovering the outlandish spectacle. Thus, my job as a reviewer is to describe enough of the film for its target audience to find it, while cautioning others to steer clear. Forgive me, dear reader, if I fall short.
The film opens amid a professional mixed martial-arts fight. One fighter represents Thailand, the other Hong Kong. They’re referred to as “Thai Guy” and “Hong Kong Guy”.
Thai Guy has Hong Kong Guy on the ropes, but Hong Kong Guy pulls off an upset, leading Thai Guy to attack Hong Kong Guy after the bell, landing Hong Kong Guy in the hospital. Hong Kong Guy’s brother, Chan Hung (also referred to as Hong Kong Guy by Thai Guy), vows revenge.
This would seem a familiar setup, but it proves a ruse. Instead, the film pulls a hard detour into monks and black magic. The formal imagery evokes Phantasm’s nightmare esthetic. It even samples Angus Scrimm’s “Boy!” closing line.
Director Kuei Chih-Hung leverages wide-angle lenses to stretch set depths and employs color filters and abundant shadows to give most scenes a dream-like atmosphere.
At their worst, the special effects feel cheap and amateurish, but the film’s manic pace ensures you needn’t wait long for the next outrageous stunt. At their best, the effects prove unsettling and horrific. The film proffers several low-fi gag-inducing scenes, including one involving a banana peel that left me wondering if a certain cast member drew a short straw.
Amidst the evocative atmosphere and bonkers effects, the script crams enough plot for three movies. This necessitates three different endings, leaving the audience exhausted for the final third, which feels more coda than climax.
Still, if one drew a Venn diagram representing fans of Phantasm and fans of Shaw Brothers productions, I suspect the overlapping oval would constitute The Boxer’s Omen’s target audience.