One of the most original, brutal, and brilliant films of recent years.
In a month where Netflix released 52 original films and series–including massive flagship series like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Daredevil–it’s not surprising that you might’ve missed some of the new offerings from the streaming service. But hidden amongst the Halloween tie-ins and superhero serials is one of the most searing, brutal, and great action films of recent years. Timo Tjahjanto’s The Night Comes For Us is a martial arts movie wrapped in a horror film dipped in some serious action pedigree with the violence and gore turned up to 11.
You might know director Tjahjanto from his brutal V/H/S 2 entry Safe Haven, a shockingly effective found footage short about a group of young filmmakers entering a secretive cult on a very important day. That statement of intent was co-directed by The Raid’s Gareth Evans, and the connections with that cult Silat smash don’t end there, with the star of Evans’ groundbreaking film, Iko Uwais, a major part of Tjahjanto’s martial arts melee madhouse. He’s not the only Raid alum though, as Joe Taslim leads The Night Comes For Us, getting to truly showcase his skills as Ito, a gangland enforcer stuck between his past violent life serving the Triad and trying to do what he believes is right after saving a young girl from an untimely death.
Though it may sound like a rather routine premise, there’s nothing remotely normal about Tjahjanto’s hyperreal flair and execution. Working alongside cinematographer Gunnar Nimpuno, the director of The Night Comes For Us quickly establishes a set of rules that work outside of what we know to be real. Although the crime families of the Triad are something we all recognize, the idea of a group of elite and dangerous delegates allowed to work outside of the organization to commit the most brutal of crimes and deal with the biggest problems elevates The Night Comes For Us to an almost alt-universe version of an action movie. Tjahjanto’s invigorating direction and the brilliant uber-stylized fight choreography–coordinated by Iko Uwais–only add to the feeling that you’re always watching something that’s pushing the boundaries of realism in all the right ways.
If you’ve seen the director’s other work, his use of blood, gore, and humor will probably come as no surprise, and this film is a natural evolution for the man who brought us Safe Haven and 2016’s relentless action bloodbath Headshot. Another star vehicle for the brilliant martial artist Uwais, we’re more used to seeing the young Silat star as the hero, but in The Night Comes For Us he turns that on its head, playing antagonist to Taslim’s rogue Triad member. If The Raid’s main appeal was its stark simplicity, The Night Comes For Us luxuriates in its over-the-top ridiculousness. An early standout scene sees Taslim fight a group of men in a meat locker, utilizing a circular saw, pig’s trotter, and meat hooks as weapons in a sequence with as much blood as your average Evil Dead film.
As a massive fan of both horror and martial arts films, it’s pretty incredible to see how Tjahjanto has melded both, with some scenes feeling like they’d be more suited to a slasher movie than an action vehicle. But The Night Comes For Us never feels unbalanced, more like a vibrant exploration of two genres that share so much but have rarely been combined in the way that Tjahjanto makes seem so natural. As Ito battles his way across the city attempting to collect enough money to start a fresh life with his girlfriend, the young child he saves he comes up against more and more unbelievable threats, from taser-toting corrupt cops to numerous outlandishly weaponed henchmen (and women), making The Night Comes For Us relentless in the best possible way.
However, it’s not just the gore that makes Tjahjanto’s film stand out, as the fight choreography is incredible. It’s always a joy to watch Iko Uwais fight, and there’s something especially satisfying about the Mortal Kombat-esque joint manipulation and severity that his role as fight coordinator brings to these sequences. It’s a different style from the fluid and realistic brutality of The Raid, almost robotic and devastatingly effective here. Atmospheric and unendingly interesting, The Night Comes For Us is nothing short of brilliant. It’s wonderful that so many people will get to see it due to Netflix’s reach, but it’s so bloody good that it’s true a shame that none of us will ever get to see it on the big screen.