Indonesia can’t be touched as Timo Tjahjanto teams with The Raid stars for an action all-timer
When attending a festival, one must be cautious to use qualifiers and tamper excitement as the festival environment can often amplify your experience and make one prone to grand, sweeping claims. This particular issue need not apply to The Night Comes For Us, the latest action opus to hail from Indonesia. This isn’t simply the most violent film at Fantastic Fest (or of 2018)… it’s the most gory action film I’ve ever seen in my entire life as an action cinema aficionado. And it’s not even close. Truly, writer/director Timo Tjahjanto has crafted an action film for the ages, giving the Indonesia-produced Raid franchise a legitimate run for its money.
The most successful final product I’ve seen from Tjahjanto to date, The Night Comes For Us is, much like other works of his I’ve seen, a little meaner than the output of his frequent collaborator Gareth Evans. In Evans’ films, there tends to be a real good guy fighting against hordes of villainy. Tjahjanto gives us some anti-heroes at best, and then makes sure virtually everyone suffers grievous injuries for their crimes. Here it’s Joe Taslim in the starring role as Ito, an elite and revered enforcer for the Chinese Triads’ legendary Six Seas. In this world, it is the mysterious Six Seas who keep the balance in check throughout the Triad criminal empire by committing unspeakable massacres. After years in the Six Seas, Ito glimpses a vision of redemption in the eyes of a little girl who’s the last survivor of one of these massacres, and takes her on the run. The entire Chinese Triad comes calling.
Fleeing to his hometown, Ito will have to begrudgingly rely on his former friends to keep the little girl alive and face off against the endless waves of street soldiers coming for them. One friend, however, Iko Uwais’ Arian, finds himself in line to fill Ito’s slot in the Six Seas, and must kill Ito if he wants to survive. Other mysterious characters will enter the fray, such as Julie Estelle’s (I believe nameless?) motorcycle riding badass whose loyalties are unclear but whose abilities are never in question.
But let’s get around to that action. Because while the screenplay actually does a good job of providing the John Woo-style melodrama that keeps us endeared to our characters that used to be brothers now having to fight and die alongside of or at one another’s hands, we’re here for that action, and Tjahjanto aims to deliver. First, the set pieces. Another product of a strong script, there are set pieces all across an array of environments and featuring all different kinds of weaponry from guns to fists to signature weapons that certain characters wield. A criticism often leveled against ultra-violent action films is that a repetitive “sameyness” can creep in. I’d argue that all of that is avoided here and Tjahjanto’s script and pacing go a long way towards achieving that. However, it’s ultimately the direction and the cast who truly light the fuse here.
Far and away the most ambitious and successful camera work I’ve seen yet from Tjahjanto, he’ll make sure we truly SEE the action. Sometimes the camera is frenetic, mounted to guns or to actors, but that dynamism never comes at the expense of actually seeing the goods. The actors are doing their own fight work and the choreography is designed to make this clear. These folks are going all out to entertain us, and they deserve all the credit the camera work and choreography give them.
Raid breakout sensation Iko Uwais handled that fight choreography for the film, and it’s absolutely spectacular. Fights have character, rhythm, and distinctive elements that allow each one to stand out, bring forth character traits, and distinguish various characters from the masses.
Finally, the practical effects team needs a massive shout out. I’m sure some CGI was used in the film, but I believe the vast majority of the stabs, bullet hits, slices, impalings, grindings, crackings, gurgles, limb severings, crashes, and explosions were accomplished practically with either in-camera effects or old school gore rigs and prosthetics. And let me tell you, this film is truly awash in viscera. Every act of violence is shown to have a physical consequence. No body part is spared. It honestly borders on body horror and the squeamish will need to turn their heads. But let’s be frank: The squeamish should never come anywhere close to watching this film. It’s a revelation of gore.
We’re always keenly aware that a final confrontation between Ito and Arian is looming. But before we get there we’re treated to such a wide array of standoffs and assaults and flat out wars that we almost can’t believe there is any gas left in the tank for the final fight. But then it comes, and it’s a fight for the ages. The team indicated that it took 2 full weeks of production to capture the final brawl, and it shows.
The Raid films have a place in my heart forever, and have become somewhat of a benchmark for what modern action cinema can achieve. Those films also essentially birthed an industry in Indonesia and put a host of Indonesian talent out there onto the international market for all of us to experience. The Night Comes For Us is the remarkable next level for that group of talent. We’ve already known that several breakout careers were born out of The Raid. But this film reshuffles the deck, doubles down on its inherent Indonesian-ness, and inherits the title as the latest international contender to show the world what action cinema can be. It’s hard to say where this film will rank among the action pantheon, but it’s certainly a new benchmark in rip-roaring, crowd-pleasing, on screen violence.
And I’m Out.