There is a championship boxing match being held between a Hong Kong fighter and a Thai one, but the Thai boxer (Bolo Yeung) prefers to bend the rules, and at times actually break them. That's not all he breaks, as the match ends in a riot during which the Hong Kong boxer's neck is snapped, all of which is witnessed by his brother Chan Hung (Phillip Ko). He is made to swear by the now-paralysed contestant that he will exact revenge on the Thai in the ring, but Chan Hung has other things to worry about, such as the apparition which keeps appearing to him - is it an omen?
Why, yes, it is an omen of great strangeness to come, and that's just in the first ten minutes. The Boxer's Omen, or Mo as it was known originally, quickly gained a reputation as one of the more extreme Asian horror movies, not that the gunge and goo that passed for special effects were especially convincing, it was more the succession of bizarre images that startled viewers. Scripted by On Sito, as if that weren't enough the film was also a spiritual journey for its hero who certainly suffered on his path to enlightenment.
For this was actually a religious movie in disguise - well, perhaps not that much of a disguise. Chan Hung is inspired by his revenge mission to venture to Thailand to confront the rival boxer, but while he's there he recognises a symbol on a local temple there. Wandering in, he finds he was carrying out a higher purpose as one of the monks there explains to him why he has been summoned (I suppose a phone call wouldn't have sufficed?). There then follows a lengthy flashback which features a black magician victimising one of the temple's monks to prevent his bid for immortality.
Put like that, it sounds a little dry, but when I tell you it involves clockwork spiders sucking a mixture of snake venom and brain through little straws you can tell this is something more... ridiculous, frankly. And yet, there's a sincerity to it all, especially in the spiritual dimension, that begins to win you over. You don't have to be a Buddhist to appreciate The Boxer's Omen, but I should think it helps as the film gets bogged down in a pious battle between good and evil with much accompanying accoutrements.
It turns out that Chan Hung and the apparition of the monk are linked, due to them being twins in a previous life, so now our hero has to become a monk himself (and shave his head, much to his dismay). This leads to combat between him and the black magician, which includes one of the film's recurring scenes where one of the baddies will chew on something disgusting to cast a spell with; at one point one of them brandishes a banana and you think, "I could cope with that", but then he throws the inside away and eats the peel. It all resolves itself in a moral lesson in abiding by religious tenets, only in the most eccentric manner possible; I'm not sure who the filmmakers thought they were appealing to, but trash fans will lap it up. Or chew it over, whatever. It surely puts The Passion of the Christ to shame in the over-the-top religious stakes. Music by Stephen Shing and Zhenhou Su.