The story of a former killer seeking redemption and being hunted by his old employers is nothing new; most recently, weve seen Keanu Reeves play this role in the John Wick movies. But what makesThe Night Comes For Usstand out is the sheer level of intense, bloody action that Tjahjanto unleashes. Its ostensibly a martial arts movie–while there is some gunplay, most of the fighting is hand-to-hand (or knife-to-throat) combat in small spaces. But this is a world away from the stylised kung fu of Wuxia or Jackie Chan movies. Taslim, Uwais, and the other actors (includingThe Raid 2s Hammer Girl, Julie Estelle) might be unbelievably skilled martial artists, but they also sell the brutality of this fighting, as limbs are snapped, throats are cut, and heads are crushed.
Like most movies of this type, the plot is extremely simple. Joe Taslim plays Ito, a gangster who is part of an elite group known as the Six Seas, whose job it is to enforce the smooth running of organised crime within the Golden Triangle, the area that borders Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. But Ito is pushed too far when he is asked to murder a young girl, so he takes the girl and goes on the run, reconnecting with his old gang. Inevitably, his former bosses want both Ito and the girl dead, so they send a seemingly never-ending army of heavily armed killers after them, including Itos old friend Arian (The Raids breakout star, Iko Uwais).
Its refreshing to watch a modern action movie that doesnt feel the need to bombard us with fast editing; Tjahjanto lets us enjoy the skill of his performers and only cuts to a new shot when he needs to crank the excitement even further. The film doesnt have the gliding camerawork of many Asian action movies; much of it is handheld, ensuring we get up close to the mayhem. Uwais might have the second billing in the cast, but he and his stunt team were responsible for the films insanely dangerous-looking stunt choreography, and this, combined with Tjahjantos experience in the horror genre and obvious love of gore, results in a movie that will satisfy fans of both genres.
The Night Comes For Usis two hours long, and in lesser hands, the frequency and intensity of the action might become boring. But Tjahjanto understands exactly how to pace the movie. Hes careful not to give us too much too soon, introducing the characters and their relationships first, as Ito rejoins his old friends and we learn of his old rivalry with Arian. When the action does explode, Tjahjanto is equally careful never to give us the same scene twice, whether its the grisly fight scene in a butchers shop, the sequence in which Itos gang face down dozens of machete-wielding bad guys in a cramped apartment, or the showdown between Estelles mysterious assassin and the two deadliest members of the Six Seas. The sheer range of weaponry employed is also impressive–theres guns and knives, but also saws, bones, wires, wine glasses, nails, and pool balls. Basically, if you can hold it, you can kill someone with it.
Beyond the violence–and lets face it, theres not that much beyond it–the plot is no more than competently told and acted. Uwais and Taslim are not subtle actors, but they have plenty of screen charisma and fully commit to their roles. There are the expected twists and double-crosses, some clichd villains, and characters whose motivations are left deliberately vague (Tjahjanto is planning another two movies). And ultimately, viewers who like their action movies funnier, slicker, and less gory might find this one a bit much. But for those who want an action movie that pushes the genre and delivers some of the most jaw-droppingly violent fight scenes ever filmed,The Night Comes For Usmore than delivers the bloody goods.
Action movie fans have long known to look to Southeast Asia for the most exciting examples of the genre. The success of 2011sThe Raid: Redemptionand its 2014 sequelThe Raid 2revealed that there is a wealth of talent in Indonesia, and the new Netflix release,The Night Comes For Us, raises the stakes even higher. Its directed by Timo Tjahjanto, a filmmaker who collaborated withRaiddirector Gareth Evans on the terrifyingSafe Haven, part of 2013s anthology filmV/H/S 2, and has previously worked in both horror and action. It takes several stars from the Raid movies and places them in an even more insanely violent context. You wont see a more brutal action movie this year, and providing your tolerance for broken limbs and spraying arteries is high, youre unlikely to see a better one either.