The obvious point of reference for The Night Comes for Us will be The Raid. That makes sense given its cast (Iko Uwais - who also did fight choreography - and Joe Taslim). But it’s also an unsatisfying frame of mind for what’s really going down here.
Yes, like The Raid it is a tough action film from Indonesia with a simple plot that unfolds over a very short amount of time. Yes, it offers a few familiar faces. But underneath all that, its gnarly, mischievous soul has more in common with Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, a film that exists solely to pelt you with relentless inventive gore and escalation. I’ve always considered The Raid a serious action film. The Night Comes for Us is way more like a (super, super great) splatter cartoon.
Joe Taslim plays Ito while Iko Uwais plays Arain, two childhood pals who each leave their home-grown gang behind to ascend Triad ranks. Three years later, Ito can no longer stand all the slaughtering he’s been up to and spontaneously decides to instead save his next victim - a cute little girl - and go on the run. Arain is tasked by his boss (Headshot’s Sunny Pang) to take him down. Brother against brother.
There’s a bit more to the story, but The Night Comes for Us doesn’t have a lot of patience for narrative. After a brief plate setting, the film rockets into a solid hour of unceasing action, takes a small break to set up a finale, and then jumps right into that as well. Charismatic performances do all the heavy lifting, which is fine. We came here for action; director Timo Tjahjanto knows it and gets to the business of destroying skulls as fast as he can.
And man, does he destroy a lot of skulls. There are multiple scenes where Joe Taslim takes out whole rooms of people, each death a choreography and special effects opportunity the film takes full advantage of. Such a thing might get old for a while, but The Night Comes to Us’ most valuable weapon is its gleeful enthusiasm for variety and gore. You’re always about five seconds from the film’s best new kill. It’s immature, but it’s also masterful. And for kids who always wondered what the last act of Commando would look like with more blood and action choreography, it’s a dream come true.
Dead Alive is a classic for what it is rather than it’s deficiencies against what a “normal” movie should be. The Night Comes for Us works the same way. The story is thin, unlikely to stay with you long. Iko Uwais seems weirdly out of place in the film. Joe Taslim’s character’s ability to withstand punishment stretches any sense of credibility (he starts the film with a bullet in his gut and goes on to kill a hundred dudes anyway).
But who cares? I’ve never seen an action movie so intent on goopy, hard-hitting violence for its own sake. There’s nothing wrong with a film populated by cartoon characters if those characters honor that function, which is definitely not a problem this movie has. Wait until you see what goes down with the insane bruiser Bob, played by Zack Lee (who you may remember from The Raid 2’s prison sequence). Lee isn’t in the film much, but he totally steals it anyway. The characters might not be deep, but so many of them are just cool as hell, which is ideal for a movie like this.
I adore The Night Comes for Us and feel especially happy that it’s hitting Netflix where more people are likely to find it, though I lament that so few will get to see it on the big screen with a hungry crowd. Nevertheless, I imagine this will be the one I put on whenever I meet a new action fan. It’s fast, fun and the new peak for action gore. It will also make you very nervous about pool balls and what they can do to a human face.