The Boxer’s Omen (1983) is one of the most infamously bizarre films that the Shaw Brothers ever produced. The Boxer’s Omen was directed by cult favorite filmmaker Kuei Chih-Hung, who is perhaps best known for his film Hex (1980). Like so many latter day Shaw Brothers productions, The Boxer’s Omen combines two types of genres to maximize audience appeal.
The Boxer’s Omen follows Chan Hung (Phillip Ko) who plans to exact revenge on the Thai boxer Bu Bo (Bolo Yeung) after Bu Bo paralyzes Hung’s brother in a boxing match. However, an Abbot (Elvis Tsui) summons Chan Hung to his temple in Thailand via supernatural visions to enlist him in a fight against an evil sorcerer who is planning the demise of his priestly order.
Chan Hung is torn between his old life in Hong Kong and his studies at the Buddhist temple and it is this conflict which provides The Boxer’s Omen with a motivation to combine two genres. The segments based in Hong Kong that deal with boxing take on the tropes of the crime film whilst the sections of the picture revolving around Chan Hung’s Buddhist pursuits play out as a supernatural adventure film. In another filmmaker’s hands this combination could feel uneven or disconnected, but Kuei Chih-Hung excels at both genres and is able to create a sense of narrative cohesion.
What stands out about The Boxer’s Omen are those sequences where Chan Hung must battle the supernatural forces of evil. Kuei Chih-Hung conjures up some of the most imaginative images and executes them with highly stylized video effects. The thematic thread of these clashes between good and evil is pure body-horror. The magic employed by the evil sorcerer and later by the zombie witch involve the weaponization of decaying flesh; bodies erupt into slimy heaps from which organs emerge animated and capable of projecting laser beams. Kuei Chih-Hung treats the viewer to a smorgasbord of gross-out moments that build up the films macabre atmosphere.
The Boxer’s Omen is a terrific midnight movie that, even at its most viscerally disturbing is still a lot of fun. Kuei Chih-Hung is in top form and delivers a no holds barred adventure flick that is as affecting as it is unforgettable. This one gets my highest recommendation.