This Indonesian thriller is one of the most brutal action movies you'll ever see.
Action movie fans have long known to look to Southeast Asia for the most exciting examples of the genre. The success of 2011's The Raid: Redemption and its 2014 sequel The Raid 2 revealed that there is a wealth of talent in Indonesia, and the new Netflix release, The Night Comes For Us, raises the stakes even higher. It's directed by Timo Tjahjanto, a filmmaker who collaborated with Raid director Gareth Evans on the terrifying Safe Haven, part of 2013's anthology film V/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 won't see a more brutal action movie this year, and providing your tolerance for broken limbs and spraying arteries is high, you're unlikely to see a better one either.
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 Ito's old friend Arian (The Raid's breakout star, Iko Uwais).
The story of a former killer seeking redemption and being hunted by his old employers is nothing new; most recently, we've seen Keanu Reeves play this role in the John Wick movies. But what makes The Night Comes For Us stand out is the sheer level of intense, bloody action that Tjahjanto unleashes. It's 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 (including The Raid 2's 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.
The Night Comes For Us is 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. He's 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 it's the grisly fight scene in a butcher's shop, the sequence in which Ito's gang face down dozens of machete-wielding bad guys in a cramped apartment, or the showdown between Estelle's mysterious assassin and the two deadliest members of the Six Seas. The sheer range of weaponry employed is also impressive--there's 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.
It's refreshing to watch a modern action movie that doesn't 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 doesn't 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 film's insanely dangerous-looking stunt choreography, and this, combined with Tjahjanto's experience in the horror genre and obvious love of gore, results in a movie that will satisfy fans of both genres.
Beyond the violence--and let's face it, there's 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 clichéd 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 Us more than delivers the bloody goods.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Stunning fight choreography||Plot is very familiar|
|Superbly directed and edited||Little levity|
|Inventive action scenes||Will just to be too violent for some|