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The leg break in action films used to be one of the ultimate shockers in a fight scene. There’s a grisly rush in seeing a person’s leg bend and break the other way. The same goes for necks, arms and backs. It’s not quite as shocking as it used to be but it still leaves that slight queasy feeling deep in your gut no matter how many times you see it. With that said Netflix’s new Indonesian action movie The Night Comes For Us draws pretty close to desensitising action fans to the wet crack and bloody result of snapping bone.
Elite Triad assassin Ito (Joe Taslim) has a sudden change of heart and saves Reina, a young girl he was meant to massacre along with her village. The whole Triad subsequently descend on Ito and Reina in an attempt to kill both of them which proves quite difficult. Ito is a member of the Six Seas, six elite assassins that keep order within the Golden Triangle – an area between Thailand, Cambodia and Laos used for smuggling. With Ito a traitor the Triad boss in Jakarta, Indonesia offers Ito’s position to Arian (Iko Uwais) who happens to be Ito’s former best friend. From there the blood flows.
Indonesia is one of the homes to martial art Pencak Silat, an especially brutal martial art unique to some South-East Asian countries. As opposed to kung-fu and tai-chi which are practised mostly for discipline, meditation and self-defence, Pencak Silat seems designed for one reason only: to kill. At least that’s the way the art has been portrayed in The Raid series, the Netflix film Headshot and now in The Night Comes for Us and it’s practitioners seem mostly content for it to remain that way. If it keeps giving us movies like the above I say go ahead.
Director Timo Tjahjanto, who also directed Headshot, seems to be the bearer of the legacy created by The Raid films. He also seems to know exactly what to do with it. The Night Comes For Us ups the ante considerably from The Raid and Headshot. There are so many gruesome kills that I’d need a whole other article to list them. The film manages to stay out of the realm of hyper-violence however probably because Tjahjanto grounds the film in reality. The camera luxuriates in the damage done to the human body by fists, feet, bullets, knives, explosives and even a mop bucket. Every character dies with at least three broken bones, six bullet wounds or a dozen stab wounds. Sometimes all three are dished out on one person.
The plot of The Night Comes For Us is pretty bare bones with Reina basically a doll that various characters move from place to place. Still the idea of having such a young child so close to so much violence is a nauseating idea if thought about for too long. Luckily the film doesn’t and throws itself into its style-over-substance approach. Gunnar Nimpuno’s camerawork is smooth and fluid moving with the actors as opposed to trying to command the action itself. Some decent Go-Pro footage adds a couple of fun quirks to the film’s fight scenes.
The Night Comes For Us should be judged on the weight of its fight scenes. Taslim and Uwais put some decent physical and emotional muscle on the skeletal script but it’s their final fight scene that’s one for the ages. After fighting his way through a warehouse using knives, snooker balls, a shotgun and some petrol Ito finally comes face to face with Arian. Reuniting two of the stars from The Raid is one thing but making them fight each other is another.
Bones are dislocated and relocated, a Stanley knife is shoved through a face and thumbtacks have never looked so painful. Still it’s in the velocity and weight of the actors themselves that sells the film as a whole. The Night Comes For Us is violent but it’s also a performance of one the most impressive martial arts by one of the best martial artists since Bruce Lee first snapped a neck and twirled a nunchuk. Martial arts movies have never looked better or hit with more ferocity.