The Night Comes for Us is the new film from Timo Tjahjanto, and was one of my most looked forward to films of the year. Tjahjanto is half of the directing team behind the nearly perfect Killers and the solo creator of the flawed (but visceral) Headshot. The Night Comes for Us proves we have an immensely talented and stylistic director that should be considered a must follow.
The plot is paper thin here: we follow Ito (Joe Taslim), an assassin who decides he can’t do it anymore, and rescues a child he was meant to kill. This sets off a brutal chain of events where his former employers must make an example of him. Arian (Iko Kuwais—star of Headshot, and both leads are also in The Raid), a childhood friend (and possibly brother? I wasn’t sure) of Ito is tasked with proving his loyalty by killing his friends.
Ito is outgunned, and as he rushes to flee the city those still loyal to him are swarmed by Triad gangsters. The violence in this film is relentless, over-the-top, and awesome. Anyone who has seen any of the above mentioned filmed knows that the action in these films is similar to a ballet more than a normal action film. The choreography is simply fantastic, and the plot jumps from explosive set piece to set piece.
Ito is aided by a mysterious woman (Julie Estelle—who is also in Headshot and The Raid II), and her motivations aren’t entirely clear. She is an assassin of assassins, and steals the show in an epic three person fight toward the final act of the film. However, there is isn’t a dud action scene in the whole film. It was nice to see Taslim take a leading role, and the difference in fighting styles between our three leads makes for hypnotic viewing. While Estelle and Kuwais have a sort of dancing grace to the combat, Taslim is a bulldog who simply crushes those in his way. One scene in particular with a pool ball will stick with you.
The film simply looks great. The directing, action, lighting, and speed of movement makes the film feel more like a rollercoaster than anything else. I enjoyed this one more than Headshot, where I thought the plot dragged a bit. Here the plot is so known that we don’t have to spend a lot of time on it. Sure, it is a straight up genre piece, but it knows what people want from the genre and delivers in blood-soaked mayhem.
Of course, the film is not perfect. Those who aren’t fans of the genre probably won’t be convinced here, and the film does suffer from a bit of a bloated run time. At a point, the fights become a little monotonous (though rarely). Cutting even ten minutes would have helped make the experience a little leaner. Oddly, the length isn’t so much an issue while watching, but will probably prevent reviewing. I felt the same way about The Raid II, but Killers doesn’t suffer from this (it also has a bit deeper of a plot). Don’t get me wrong, the film is awesome, and we get to see incredibly talented people beat the holy hell out of each other.
I found a lot of the gore seemed to be played for laughs, and at first I wasn’t sure about this. In the end, it works to support the completely chaotic and over-the-top feel of the world here. Our heroes are basically superheroes, and shrug off wounds that would kill most. Everything is a weapon, and once the violence starts there is a level of sheer madness that reminded me of a zombie horde than an action film. Coupled with the gore, this movie is almost a horror film as much as it is gonzo martial arts.
Netflix picked this one up, and I am glad. With the success of Mad Max: Fury Road, there is a clear market for well-made and intense action. Indonesia has proven that it knows how to make some of the best action films around, and I hope this one finally gives these folks the international recognition they deserve. The Night Comes for Us is probably the best action film of 2018, and might be in my top-ten of films to see this year. Highly recommended.