Timo Tjahjanto proves with The Night Comes For Us that Indonesian cinema can be truly worthy of action buffs time. After being enthusiastically received at Fantastic Fest on September 22, 2018, it was only a matter of time before Netflix laid eyes on this gem of Indonesian cinema, almost a month later, on October 19 it was available on the platform in plain view of everyone who wanted to see an action movie different from what is commonly seen in a typical blockbuster movie.
The film submerges us as spectators in a dark and seedy underworld where revenge, betrayal, and ambition give way to a story centered on the world of triads. A simple premise, although the film knows very well how to take advantage of it to show us the most brutal, wild and bloody scenes of martial arts fights that have ever been seen in recent years.
Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim star in this film, both of whom had previously appeared together in The Raid movies. Iko Uwais plays Arian, and Joe Taslim plays Itoh, both former comrades, and allies who in the film face each other in a struggle for survival, where one seeks to prevail over the other, and where they are nothing more than pawns of a deadly game where it is not known for certain who the controllers are and who they control.
At the beginning of the film after brief exchanges of somewhat tedious exposition, with a somewhat trite and corny dialogue, it is revealed that there is a team known as the Six Seas, they are a kind of elite command of mercenaries and assassins in charge of enforcing order and obedience among all the territories controlled by the most powerful mafia of Jakarta, which in the film is mentioned enigmatically as the triad although it is not its name.
They control 80% of the contraband, and traffic arms, drugs, and focus on human trafficking. All this in the channels of the golden triangle, a place where the forces of law and order turn their sights away to the criminal activities that are done there or have been bought by the criminal elite who do not want to see their shady business at risk.
After that the film comes with everything at the viewer, although it is noted during the course of this that director Timo Tjahjanto is not only someone who loves and likes to indulge himself and his viewers over the film’s gnarliest combat scenes, but also has some very remarkable film spirit and even has the sensitivity to put in a certain combat scene the fifth symphony of Mahler.
To drag the point home that all this is not going to be a typical action movie, that this action movie is intended for you to feel and for also to get you to think.
Something worth delving into completely is the action shown on screen, the eye of Tjahjanto always focuses clearly on long shots, in anticipation of a brutal action for the greater impact which makes the combat scenes have a gradual increase to a climax that culminates with a fighter or several collapsing wounded or dead.
Each sequence is a masterclass of editing and planning, there are closed and open fights, with several plane sequences paired up with in situ transition, captured perfectly on film. It emulates but does not plagiarize the greatest directors of Asian action cinema, such as the renowned John Woo. And there are even traces of Tsui Hark, Takashi Miike, and Ringo Lam.
Everything you see on screen is real, and it costs the average observer to assimilate it, no doubt because Hollywood has focused on all kinds of blockbusters to resort to green screens or doubles, but The Night Comes For Us certainly breaks the mold, the cast takes an active part in the fighting scenes.
The predominant martial art is the already known Pencat Silak, and this film, as well as others made in Indonesia such as Headshot, have made known how incredibly skillful, agile and brutal can be this particular martial art, Iko Uwais who apart from playing a major role, also acted as an action coordinator standing out also in this role.
The script is nothing surprising or revolutionary, the film knows it, there are some dialogues that do not land as they should, but that is part of the charm of the genre, and will not cause any stumble for the average viewer.
Gunnar Nimpunno’s cinematography stands out with a muted palette of colors that gives an air of tragedy and melancholy to the flashbacks centered on Ito, and warm but tenuous colors when Ito interacts with Airan. And when the film takes place at night it manages to capture all the splendor of Jakarta, with its two sides, the attractive and the hidden behind it with very good success.
As for the special effects, which were in charge of Greg Dora there is one or another glimpse of a bad blood spurt CGI effect that looks completely phony, but it is something forgivable, because of the enthralling action scenes. But the practical effects stand out even more than in the few times they resort to computer special effects. Why?
Because in the movie the observer is going to witness an authentic bloodbath, limbs are severed, heads are crushed or semi decapitated, there are way too many broken bones, bullet shots go in and out of human bodies, and all kind of sharp objects penetrating parts of the human body in the gnarliest fashion.
The music score in charge of Fajar Yuskemal and Aria Prayogi proves once again that a synthesizer can be chilling and also quite peppy in certain portions of the film with great effect.
The performances of the entire cast noteworthy, Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim stand out, the conflictive rapport between them is absorbing in the scenes in which they interact together. They recite their lines not as actors, but as real beings that you can understand and comprehend their actions.
Sunny Pang as Chien Wu does not appear much, but also stands out, as does Julie Estelle who appears credited as the Operator, she appears in the finest action set piece of the movie where she has to fight two other women assassins.
As for the negatives, the film could have disposed about ten or fifteen minutes in the editing room, and it was mentioned a bit at the beginning of the review, but the story tends to become somewhat confusing with appearances and surprising twists that would leave the viewer perplexed wondering what happened. A screenplay polish would have helped to clarify the plot a little.
But the negatives are not going to matter at all because the movie is authentic Russian roulette, you don’t know what to expect when you see it, what is certain is that is one hell of an experience. It is extreme, hard-hitting and visceral action filmmaking like no other right now, and it needs to be seen to be believed.
It is the definitive proof that sometimes style does matter and subtlety should be thrown out of the window. The Night Comes For Us will make you embrace that sort of like gonzo old school sensibility you didn’t know you didn’t have.