I’ve been frothing at the mouth over Timo Tjahjanto’s The Night Comes for Us since the first moment I caught a whisper of its existence. The Indonesian director’s previous film, 2016’s Headshot—co-directed with Kimo Stamboel, who produced Night—serves up a vicious, angry action extravaganza that builds on what The Raid movies created. And his latest endeavor cranks things up to the umpteenth degree.
I’ve never uttered, “Oh, fuck,” as a gut-level, visceral response to a movie so many times in my life, and I’ve spent most of my life watching rugged action movies. The Night Comes for Us is a non-stop crescendo of vicious, mean-spirited brutality. Tjahjanto puts his horror background to good use, delivering more gore and splatter than any slasher you’re likely to find. We’re talking bone-breaking, gut-ripping, face-stabbing, machete-wielding mayhem.
And in addition to being the boldest, craziest action movie maybe ever, the story adds up to much more than a delivery system for bananas fight choreography—though there’s plenty of room for that as well. The plot follows Ito (Joe Taslim), an elite Triad enforcer who has a change of heart and sets out to protect a young girl he’s supposed to kill and perhaps find redemption. This puts him at odds with his former employers and pits him against his former best friend, Arian (Iko Uwais).
On the surface, it offers a simple story, but layers of history, betrayal, and competing interests mesh together to create a much deeper, more nuanced picture of the criminal underworld than initially expected. I saw someone, I don’t remember who, compare it to Once Upon a Time in America, and it definitely falls into that broad, sweeping crime saga—I also place The Raid 2 squarely in this category.
While the plot revolves around Ito, there’s a bigger, expansive mythology in play. Tjahjanto, who also wrote the script, rarely spells out things in explicit fashion. Instead, he doles out just enough history and information to propel the narrative and cast oblique illumination on the wider world yet to be explored. There’s much more going on behind the scenes and in the shadows than we’re privy to and that gives the world texture and dimension.
With Iko Uwais’ team handling the choreography, there’s a high level of expectation in that regard. While The Night Comes for Us packs an emotional punch, the action is the main draw, and it delivers, and then some, and then a little more on top of that. Knowing Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais, two of the baddest dudes on the planet, are going to eventually throw down is enough to get me to watch a movie. When they do collide, it’s one of the best fight scenes in years, an all-timer. But everyone around them is just as phenomenal. Julie Estelle’s mysterious Operator tussles with the equally shady Elena (Hannah Al Rashid) and Alma (Dian Sastrowardoyo) in one of most vicious brawls ever put to film. Ito dismantles a crew in a bonkers butcher shop tussle. He then makes the most violent use of pool balls in a fight since Out for Justice, among countless other scraps and scuffles.
Tjahjanto films it all in unique style that both showcases the remarkable martial arts talent on screen and creates a raw immediacy that places the viewer smack in the middle of it all. There’s a pulsing, primal sensation that captures the anger and rage and anguish, transmitting it to the audience. As fantastic and over-the-top as the action is, the film maintains a grounded connection between the audience and the players.
The Night Comes for Us is nothing short of the best action movie of the year, the best action movie in years to be honest. An epic crime saga, a mean-spirited banger, and a story of betrayal and redemption, it’s also potentially the first chapter in a trilogy. I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted anything more than I want three of these movies, so sweet baby Jesus, do your thing. Watch this on Netflix then watch it again and let’s get this done. [Grade: A]