- The Night Comes for Us
- Written and directed by: Timo Tjahjanto
- Starring: Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais
- Classification: N/A
- 121 minutes
You could easily talk about how The Night Comes for Us teases the various threads currently holding the film industry together.
There’s the Netflix angle, for starters. Originally announced in 2014 as a project for the Weinstein Company’s Radius-TWC label, The Night Comes for Us now arrives four years later as part of the aforementioned streaming giant’s bid to conquer all manner of content. Then there’s the film’s globalist DNA, with producers ranging from Jakarta to Los Angeles to Toronto (the latter represented by XYZ Film’s Todd Brown), and stars who are as popular in Asia as they are in certain corners of North America. Or there’s the rise-of-genre-films argument, which posits that these kind of bloody, down-and-dirty, once-barely-respectable action movies are enjoying a resurgence thanks to traditional studios abandoning such content in favour of squeaky-clean franchises.
Those are all fine topics. But after being exposed to The Night Comes for Us, the first and last thing we should be talking about is just how bonkers this film is. As in: Unless you are on the programming committee for the most literally bloody-minded of film festivals, you have never experienced as ludicrously violent and gore-soaked a film as The Night Comes for Us.
This is all, by the way, a strong recommendation.
By exploiting the raw physical power of the Indonesian martial art called silat and then emptying buckets and buckets of fake blood upon your cast for kicks, filmmaker Timo Tjahjanto has birthed a monster of a movie, as brutal as it is hypnotic.
For anyone who’s seen Gareth Evans’s 2011 cult sensation The Raid and its grandiose sequel, The Raid 2: Berandal, The Night Comes for Us may not be a near-fatal shock. It does, after all, borrow much of that mini-franchise’s cast – including Joe Taslim, Julie Estelle and Iko Uwais, who also choreographs the severe fights here – and its Jakarta underworld setting. Plus, Tjahjanto has his own history working adjacent to Evans, with both their short films appearing in the horror anthology V/H/S/2, and Tjahjanto’s previous film Headshot (co-directed with Kimo Stamboel) starring Uwais.
But for those who have never had the good fortune of stumbling upon those titles, The Night Comes for Us will alternatively delight or sicken. Or both. Whatever the reaction, it will be visceral.
Although the film’s opening minutes seem standard enough – including a needlessly complicated title card explaining the hierarchical layers of the Southeast Asian Triad – it doesn’t take long for this story of warring criminals to go completely off the rails. The basics (and the story is basic, suffering in comparison to the Godfather-esque ambitions of Berandal) are this: Triad enforcer Ito (Taslim) is on track to becoming one of the region’s most respected killers, until he has a sudden change of heart and rescues a young village girl from his fellow hit men. Immediately marked a traitor, Ito prepares to hightail it out of the country with his new ward, while fellow on-the-rise gangster Arian (Uwais) is tasked with hunting his old friend down.
There are other, lesser subplots that Tjahjanto tries to contort into something resembling a story, but it is all an excuse for a series of elaborately staged fight scenes that test the limits of on-screen ferocity. Bones are broken in bold new ways, limbs are sawed off with glee, machetes are wielded with impunity and guns (when sparingly used) devastate the human body. It’s grim, gruesome stuff, but executed (ahem) with such precise fury that even if action cinema isn’t your thing, you can’t help but be astounded by the level of technical skill on display. Watching the carnage unfold, it’s impossible to tell exactly how Tjahjanto pulled it off, without in reality murdering several hundred stunt-men and women.
And for those who do revel in such mayhem (guilty ... so very guilty), then Tjahjanto and Uwais have delivered the Holy Grail of gonzo action cinema. There’s nary a breather between set-pieces, and an eye-popping number of sly references to the genre’s forebearers (at one moment, a slash-and-dash nod to Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer; at another, a very small call-back to the mace Gogo Yubari wields in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, itself inspired by Jimmy Wang Yu’s Master of the Flying Guillotine).
Once the final battle between Taslim and Uwais arrives, the grisly extravagance is a weirdly ideal mix of exhaustion and exhilaration. It’s also dispiriting, given that almost everyone watching The Night Comes for Us will do so in the comfort of their own homes, instead of a jam-packed movie theatre full of bloodthirsty silat fanatics.
Netflix should be applauded for bringing Tjahjanto’s certifiably bananas vision to the screen, but you can’t help but wonder how elevated an experience it would be to witness a live audience absolutely lose their minds in real time. The theatre would burn to the ground.
The Night Comes for Us is streaming now on Netflix