Review by C.J. Bunce
Many movies showcase gangland violence in the action genre, but very few in the way of writer-director Timo Tjahjanto. His 2018 blood and guts masterpiece The Night Comes for Us is the kind of movie for audiences looking for the satisfaction you get from a big rollercoaster, the kind they provided in action films in the 1970s and 1980s starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Lee. It’s so heavy on violence you might get the feeling someone found a spare makeup department with extra buckets of fake blood in between horror movie projects. Yet among the visual spectacle (you may duck a few times in your living room not to get splattered) Tjahjanto knows how to build a story and characters into one heckuva fun payoff.
If you usually skip foreign films, it’s well past time to get over that, as Netflix has so many TV series and films from Asia now a viewer could never get through all the good ones, and we’ve reviewed some of the best here at borg, including the horror drama Kingdom at the top of the heap. The Night Comes for Us is an Indonesian film with subtitles, but the action and characters tell the story enough from their movements you don’t even need to read the dialogue.
Now gaining more familiarity with English-speaking audiences, international martial arts superstar Iko Uwais (Wu Assassins, The Raid) plays Arian, a wannabe thug inside the South East Asian Triad, vying for the elite status of the six enforcers of the “Six Seas.” But he has a supporting role to one of those six members who shares a past with Arian, an enforcer becoming dismayed with his way of life named Ito, played by Southeast Asian Judo champion Joe Taslim (Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek Beyond, Warrior).
The world of loyalty, betrayal, and murder has taken its toll on Ito, but he only realizes it after he leads a massacre on a small village where his gang levels every man, woman, and child, then he sees the last little girl (Reina, played by Asha Bermudez) standing in the village crying after her mother is killed. Ito’s next actions will determine the fates of everyone in his past over the next two hours. Don’t even try to keep a body count from this one. It gets gory!
The Night Comes for Us has a stunning number of quality supporting characters, and each actor gets opportunities to showcase their physical skills, while illustrating the heroics or villainy of the role in the film. Beyond the two leads, three women assassins spar and fight for their factions as well or better than the men, including frequent Uwais collaborator and “Indonesian scream queen” Julie Estelle (The Raid 2, Headshot). Called The Operator, this mysterious woman wants all of the members of the Six Seas dead. Dian Sastrowardoyo (Kartini, Gangster) can kill with a piece of string and Hannah Al Rashid (You Can’t Hear Me You Can’t See Me) takes no prisoners as Triad enforcers coming after Ito for leaving the Triad.
Chien Wu (Sunny Pang, Blood Rush, Kill-Fist), one of the Six Seas, calls in Arian, who is managing a high-end club, to help capture old friend Ito. Among Ito and Arian’s friends back home are a group of heroes worth cheering for. They include that too-crazy friend type who will risk anything for his family (including all the bullet wounds and knife swipes) in the form of Zack Lee (Headshot, Gundala) as Bobby–this guy will conjure all the samurai in Akira Kurosawa movies in one explosive package. Fatih (Abimana Aryasatya, Gundala) takes charge of Reina to try to hide her from the Triad, hiding in a parking garage. Dimas Anggara (Dancing in the Rain) plays Wisnu, a cousin brought in to help hide Reina. Name an object and it’s probably used in this movie to punch someone or remove an appendage.
More machetes fly around than in a Quentin Tarantino movie, with better story and action to boot. Not to be missed for fans of big action movies and among the best of 21st century martial arts choreography, The Night Comes for Us is streaming now on Netflix.