'Legend of the Tsunami Warrior' is Like 'Star Wars', Only Vader and Obi-Wan Are the Same Dude

Du Lum is a lot like the Force. There is a light side and a dark side, and it's easy to become consumed by the dark side, to let rage and hatred control you.

Legend of the Tsunami Warrior

Director: Nonzee Nimibutr
Cast: Chupong Changprung, Sorapong Chatree, Jarunee Suksawat, Ananda Everingham, Jesdaporn Pholdee, Winai Kraibutr, Jakkrit Phanichphatikram, Anna Ris
Distributor: Magnolia Home Entertainment
Rated: R
US DVD Release Date: 2010-05-11

Legend of the Tsunami Warrior is a Thai version of a swords-and-sorcery fantasy epic. It has everything you could want out of a story like this. There are evil wizards, good wizards, powerful magic, royal courts, sword fights, intrigue, betrayal, ninjas, and pirates, and a giant battle sequence at the end.

It is also a bit like Star Wars, only Vader and Obi-Wan are the same dude. But I’ll get to that later.

All of the norms and tropes of the genre are here, but everything has a Thai twist to it. For example, the sword fights aren’t just sword fights, they involve knee strikes and flying elbows. It was produced by Sahamongkol Film International, the people responsible for movies like Ong-Bak and Born to Fight, so you know the action is going to be top notch. As a movie, Tsunami Warrior is better than Ong-Bak 2, which was one of my most disappointing movies of 2008.

In 1593 in the mythical kingdom of Langkasuka, things are rough. The king died and appointed three sisters to rule in succession, but the ruffian warlords who rule the neighboring states don’t respect the new rulers because, well, because they’re women, and of course, the macho men want to take over. To combat this aggression, the sitting queen, Hijau (Jarunee Suksawat), commissions a Dutch weapons manufacturer and his Chinese apprentice, Lim Kium (Jakkrit Phanichphatikram), to build some giant cannons, the likes of which the world has never seen, and which will ensure the sovereignty of Langkasuka.

Unfortunately, the cannons are lost when the dread pirate Black Raven (Winai Kraibutr) sinks the ship. Only Kium and a young boy, Pari, survive, and they both find their way to a coastal fishing village where the fisherman use the art of Du Lum wizardry to aid their fish catching endeavors. There are many levels of Du Lum, and the average, everyday villager is only acquainted with the bare minimum, just what is necessary for them to locate schools of fish by listening to the water. At the deeper levels, Du Lum can be used to communicate with, and control the creatures of the ocean.

Du Lum is a lot like the Force. There is a light side and a dark side, and the angrier you are, the more hate that fills your soul, the blacker your path. Also like the Force, it is easy to become consumed by the dark side, to let rage and hatred control you.

As a child borne of the sea, Pari (Ananda Everingham when he is all grown up) is a natural, but White Ray (Sorapong Chatree) (and later his dark side persona, Black Ray—see, I told you Vader and Obi-Wan were the same guy) refuses to teach him. Pari is Luke in this metaphor, the one who will bring balance to the two opposing sides and end the continuing circle of violence.

Every party wants to retrieve the big guns from the bottom of the ocean so they can get the upper hand. There are some assassination attempts, the pirate factions form an alliance to try to take down Langkasuka, and twisting storylines intertwine. The main threads follow Pari, Kium, Princess Ungu (Anna Ris), and Jarang, a staunchly loyal royal guard. He gets half of his face burned off foiling a hit on the queen, and spends the rest of the movie beating the hell out of people while wearing a Phantom of the Opera style mask.

Jarang is definitely the action centerpiece in Tsunami Warrior, and is played by Chupong Changprung (aka Dan Chupong), who is in all three Ong-Bak movies, Born to Fight, and Dynamite Warrior. His action cred is as good as it gets right now, and his presence alone ups the badass factor substantially.

There is love, heartbreak, subterfuge, and action. Along the way, more than one character has to learn to temper their instincts towards revenge in order to end the cycle of violence. Black Raven kills Kium’s master, so he wants revenge, and his revenge leads to Black Raven destroying Pari’s entire village, killing his wife, and it rolls on and on. Left unchecked, the merry-go-round of vengeance will circle on forever and consume everyone it touches.

Despite the extensive collection of stories, subplots, and characters (it wouldn’t be a true epic without all of those things), and the complexity of the structure, director Nonzee Nimibutr does an excellent job weaving them all together. Journeys intersect and diverge, and the action in each segment complements the parallel action in the others.

All of the strands are important, all of them carry emotional weight, and none of them gets shortchanged. Even small roles, like the queens, which could have easily been stock, cutout characters, are more complex than they could have been. Hijau is deeply devoted to her country and her people, willing to lose everything she has, including her life, in order to protect them. Themes of sacrifice and duty, whether to job, country, family, or whatever else you can find, run throughout Tsunami Warrior.

The sets and costumes are expansive and elaborate. From simple, dingy pirate outfits and tattoos, to intricate and ornate royal ceremonial armor, the design in impressively intricate. You really get a sense of how big and detailed everything is in the behind-the-scenes footage included on the DVD. It shows just how large and involved the set pieces actually are. When you see the size of the constructions you realize the scope and scale of the production.

Sometimes the CGI is a bit suspect. The underwater scenes look good, but there are a couple of shots of a computer-manufactured armada that look like something straight off of SyFy. Luckily, Nimibutr doesn’t use these shots any more than is necessary.

Overall, Legend of the Tsunami Warrior looks great, a feat that is doubly impressive given the budget of 140 million Baht, which at today’s going rate, is about $4.3 million US dollars. There is no way a Hollywood production could have produced anything even remotely like this with the same amount of money. The film is huge and sweeping, just like an epic fantasy needs to be.

In addition to the behind the scenes footage, the DVD comes with a ten minute, making-of feature. Most of the time is given to Nimibutr gesticulating wildly, his enthusiasm for the movie is obvious, and talking about how they wanted to do something different from a standard Hollywood fantasy movie. They did.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.

8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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