Magnolia Pictures // 2008 // 119 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 14th, 2010
How can you go wrong with a movie about a Tsunami warrior? Watch and learn.
These days some of the most unique and exciting action films have been coming out of Thailand. This latest release has the former covered, but the latter is MIA.
I'm going to do my best with the synopsis, because The Legend of the Tsunami Warrior is surprisingly convoluted for a movie that is essentially about a guy who talks to fish.
Here's what we know: there's a princess who rules over a pretty awesome city, which can only be attacked by sea. An evil prince teams up with an evil pirate named Black Raven to launch a full-scale assault and assume the throne. Everyone is after a magic super cannon. And before the great battle concludes a man will ride a giant stingray and attack pirates with whales.
The only Tsunami this Warrior created for me was a tidal wave of disappointment. I may not be completely off the Thai actioner bandwagon, but an overproduced headache like this film does little to convince me to stay on board.
To be fair, Tsunami Warrior shouldn't be categorized with the Ong Bak franchise or bad-ass weirdness like Fireball; this is a fantasy action movie, with the emphasis on the fantasy. You've got dueling wizards and CGI attack fish and aquatic spell-casting and loads of wirework. Grounded martial arts, this is not. Which is fine of course, if the fantasy detailed here wasn't so 1) convoluted or 2) goofy.
The filmmakers have worked extraordinarily hard to craft a deep mythology, utilizing opening title cards, extensive doses of exposition delivered by wise, old men with wrinkly bosoms and flashbacks. But it's all sizzle and gristle, amounting to a basic clichéd story about a Chosen One and his journey to achieve his full potential (i.e., swimming) and an aggressor fighting against an innocent city ruled by an attractive princess. Those two hours of runtime have to be filled with something, though, and that something just hurts my brain.
I could get past the nonsense storyline if there was some kick-ass action to be the award for my efforts. Well there's not and that's my biggest gripe with Tsunami Warrior. The melee-to-mythology ratio is grossly out of whack, with only a small amount of action scenes showing up to break the monotonous stranglehold of the tedious narrative. An assault on the pirate's hideout has some meat to it, but the over-reliance on wirework hurts the effect, a sword fight early on is well-staged but boring in its choreography and the big smackdown at the end is a middling visual effect cluster-F, capped by a ludicrous finale with whales (even though it was made clear that our hero can only talk to "fish").
Good Blu-ray, though. The 1.78:1 transfer is clean and sharp and as much as the overdone production design struck me as too busy, it does look pretty awesome in high-def. The believability of the visual effects takes a hit in the enhanced resolution, however, especially the naval battle finale, where the individual ships look like something lifted from a Metal Gear cut-scene. Audio comes courtesy of a pair of 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks (Thai and English) and both are effective, though as the rule of thumb goes, opt for the original language track with the subtitles; the dubbing here is as corny as one would expect. Two extras: behind-the-scenes footage and a decent making-of featurette.
I hate to dump on the Thai action movie establishment, but Tsunami Warrior is washed up. Also, the movie is rated R, but it's a very, very soft R.
Guilty. Glub glub.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Thai)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R