Fantastic Fest 2018: The Night Comes for Us
“Sounds like a gangster movie, right?”
Director Timo Tjahjanto’s new slam-bang, action crime film is very loose and haphazard when it comes to its plot. It’s all fairly basic; an in-war begins amongst the Triads, with Ito (Joe Taslim) and his friends facing hordes of knife-wielding gang members and an old friend, Arian (Iko Uwais). What kickstarts all this is Ito’s decision to turn against the gang when he chooses not to kill the last surviving little girl of a village the Triads want wiped out. He spends the entirety of the film keeping her alive, while kicking, punching, stabbing, and shooting his way out. The Night Comes for Us greatest strength is its action sequences. Uwais not only co-stars but is the action coordinator, constructing scenes of ultraviolence that stand side-by-side with his choreography work in The Raid and The Raid 2.
Taslim, who also co-starred in The Raid, is the lead here, and as Ito he delivers an adrenaline-fueled performance with nothing of real nuance—but who needs nuance when your one mode is “stab, stab, stab”? Uwais is given a little more to do, playing the gang member told to kill his old friend and the little girl Ito is protecting. It’s been apparent since The Raid that Uwais has tremendous charisma, but he has rarely been utilized right since. He’s been a standout in some recent action movies — kicking some alien ass in the very fun Beyond Skyline and being the only good thing in the super messy Mile 22. Thankfully there’s plenty of Uwais here to go around — the very first fight has him bottle-stabbing rowdy night club patrons, and later he shifts between English and his native tongue all while balancing the tightrope of menacing villain and empathetic anti-hero.
Julie Estelle plays a mystery woman who is enlisted to eliminate some of the gang members in the bloody mix; she says very little but she pulls her weight in the ensuing violence, participating in an exhilarating three-way fight scene during the film’s climax. Zack Lee is also a scene-stealer as “White Boy” Bob, Ito’s one-legged, on-edge friend who still manages to inflict damage on the gang hordes — and, yes, there are hordes of bad guys that get wiped out in the film’s two-hour runtime. There’s not much time spent on exposition before diving right into it — Ito interrogates a gang leader in a butcher shop, leading to the first few gallons of blood being shed. The bone saw that comes into play is the perfect tone-setter for the remaining 90 minutes. The Night Comes for Us is not for the faint of heart — and that’s not a warning I give out too often.
It’s hard to not make the comparison between this and the recent string of high-body count Indonesian action films, especially both The Raid films. Previously, director Timo Tjahjanto has dipped into both action and horror, directing Uwais in Headshot and co-directing the (best) horror short in the anthology film V/H/S/2 with Gareth Evans. His horror roots definitely show here — each blade slice is enhanced with practical makeup effects, and every time you see the inside of someone, it’s a horror all of its own. He also keeps a firm foot into the masterfully constructed action thanks to his connection to The Raid films.
The Night Comes for Us trades in dialogue-driven emotional connection for sinew-piercing, raw energy. What it fails to give you in its very few flashbacks showing our characters at happier times, you get it in every stab, gunshot, and garrote twist. It’s not only a top-notch Indonesian action film, it’s one of the best action films in quite some time, bar none. Just be sure you have a strong stomach for it, because you’re in for quite a blood-drenched ride, with some spewed intestines thrown in there for good measure.