So, there I was, standing in the courtyard in front of Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, in-between movies at Fantastic Fest. As is customary, I was deciding whether or not I should have another beer, worried that the drink may make me sleepy during my next movie. I'm not sure what time it was (as the construct barely exists at FF outside of marking when the next feature commences). The sun was down.
"You're gonna love it. It's basically my new favorite movie." That's what I remember our own Evan Saathoff saying to me after he'd just exited The Night Comes For Us. Look, you need to know something about Evan: he doesn't get overly excited too often. He likes stuff, but he's usually very tempered in his responses. Nothing's ever "the best ever" or "the worst ever" with him (as is standard practice with many who write about movies online anymore). It's why I like Evan. He's just this side of jaded, but can still exude this boyish enthusiasm whenever he gets caught up in a piece of entertainment/art (talk to him about It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and he'll perk right up). Also, he bobs. Not in an obnoxious fashion; almost like a little dance he does because his body is just overwhelmed with joy. It's cute. For example: when he came out of the first Fantastic Fest screening of John Wick, he wasn't just bobbing. He was hopping.
Right now, Evan was bobbing a bit. I'd already had The Night Comes For Us on my schedule, but had to miss the first screening for some jury obligations. I knew there was a press screening at 8 A.M. the following morning, so the fact that Evan was bobbing informed me an alarm had to be set. Because the other thing about Evan: he knows action movies. Like, better than most. And if he just called a new shoot 'em up starring two of the front men from The Raid (Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim) his "new favorite movie", chances were high that it ruled hard as love.
8 A.M. rolls around. I drag my ass back to Lamar (because I'd stayed up to see something at midnight - this is Fantastic Fest, after all) with two energy drinks in tow. I only drank one. The other proved unnecessary, because The Night Comes For Us is cinematic cocaine, boiled down and injected straight into your eyeballs: two straight hours of bodies pummeling bodies, in the service of a threadbare narrative that delivers all the high-wire, operatic emotion of the best Hong Kong "heroic bloodshed" pictures. Think A Better Tomorrow. Think Election. Think City On Fire. This movie ranks with the very finest, while delivering hyper-active gore porn for fans of Gareth Evans' Raid movies.
Better still: it's another example of why Uwais (who also choreographed the absolutely bonkers fights) should be the biggest international genre star on the planet. He's a physical performer of the highest order, but also owns the unique charisma of a bona fide marquee idol. Same goes for Joe Taslim, who is essentially our morally grey hero here, fighting for his life against ostensibly the entire underworld of Jakarta, just to save one little girl. We need these two guys in every fucking film from now on, as watching them square off (during a climactic fight that goes on seemingly forever) is one of the greatest experiences I've had as an action fan in the longest time.
I never see movies twice at a festival. It's a priority thing, more than anything else. There's just usually too much stuff playing that I'm genuinely interested in and not enough slots to fit them all in. That said, I went and saw The Night Comes For Us a second time at Fantastic Fest, seated in the front row, just so I could see how an audience responded to this madness. People were cheering and clapping; gasping at the levels of brutality on display, and getting caught up in the heightened melodrama of it all. As far as FF screenings go, it ranks pretty high out of all the pictures I've taken in during my seven years of attendence.
Now, you can watch The Night Comes For Us on Netflix. That's right. Timo Tjahjanto's hyper-violent heroic bloodshed opus is there to melt your face off at this very moment. My advice: call ten of your friends, grab a case of beer, and get absolutely wild together. This is a movie that's best experienced with rowdy neighbors, all looking to get high off beautifully arranged bodily destruction. When you're done, take to Twitter and let everyone know just how crazy and fun and moving it is. Don't let Timo's viscerally-exciting work just become another thing that sits on Netflix's digital shelf, gathering bandwidth dust. It deserves so much better.
In short, Evan was right. The Night Comes For Us is a new favorite. It fucking rules.