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'The Night Comes for Us': Innovating the art of violence

Dylan Amirio

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sat, October 27, 2018  /  09:33 am

Director Timo Tjahjanto, who is responsible for Indonesian action films like Headshot and Killers, manages to present Indonesia’s first original film for Netflix as a smorgasbord of violence, diverse in its execution and satisfying our primordial human desire for blood. 

As a whole, The Night Comes for Us is basically another typical Asian gangster film, but one which is not afraid to turn the violence levels up to 11. This is what makes it stand out. 

We see the return of Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais in yet another violent setting together as they went through in their 2011 breakout film The Raid, only this time the setting is within the Golden Triangle Triads: the Asian gangsters who run the drug trade in Southeast Asia. 

The film’s entertainment value comes mainly from these two stars sparring against each other, considering the fact that both men are probably Indonesia’s most talented action film stars at the moment. Another Raidalumni, the lovely Julie Estelle, also appears in this film as a vicious assassin. 

Another notable pair in the film is Hannah al Rasyid and Dian Sastrowardoyo who both play vicious side women to one of the rival gangster characters. 

It is great to see this because both Hannah and Dian recently starred in the way, way lighter film, with happy faces and cheerful demeanors talking about food and love. So it comes as a surprise to see the mild-mannered characters suddenly turn into bringers of pain in the movie. It is a wonderful transition and an amusing one too.

For those who appreciate the art of violence, The Night Comes for Us is a spectacular example of how far people can go to (physically) hurt one another, especially when it comes from rage or revenge. Forget Bloodsport. Forget Kill Bill or any other Tarantino flick. This is the most violent film you will see for a while. 

It should be lauded for the innovative methods of violence it shows on screen. It does not aim for gore per se, but every punch lands hard and deep into the face that the drawing of blood becomes something normal by the time the end comes. 

One particular uncomfortable scene came in the early minutes when Iko’s character Arian shoves a broken bottle into a Chinese gangster’s mouth and proceeds to smash his head on the table, thus shattering the bottle and the viewer’s comfort. While this method of violence may have some viewers’ sphincters clenching with discomfort, the way Joe performs this scene with pure cold-blooded rage is exceptional.

The martial arts used here are highlighted yes through Joe and Iko’s use of them, but it takes a backseat to the blood spilled, making it a very loose adaptation of whatever martial art the film is trying to embody. 

Fight scenes rage on and on and on and after one ends, another one starts not long after. For action film heads, this is a blessing. For those who are not, the rapid shifts in the two-hour timespan might seem a bit tiring. But after the film is finished, you will grow to appreciate the exhaustion you felt. 

Many people will inevitably compare this film to The Raid, which did wonders for introducing Indonesia’s capability to bring the bloodlust. In many ways, the formula of these two films are almost the same — both have very thin storylines and one-dimensional characters, with dialog that only serves to fill time and nothing more. 

A notable plot device in this film comes in the form of the little girl Reina, played by Asha Kenyeri Bermudez. At the start, it seems like she would be the story’s focal point, but it turns out her relevance is gradually swept aside by the Ito-Arian clash.

Even though the clash seems to take over the main relational plot, Reina remains the character who manages to hold the film’s thin story in place, as without her, it would only be a barrage of unexplained fight scenes.

Timo mainly delivers the film’s points through the fighting choreography, which manages to make up for the film’s flimsy foundations and so much more. People are probably not going to watch this film for the plot. They want to see Joe, Iko, Hannah, Dian and Julie beat the crap out of each other, which they all do in spectacular fashion. Appealing to the basest human pleasures is definitely one foolproof way to create an incredible experience. 

It is funny to also point out the characters here are obviously built for longevity and are therefore excused from being held back by their human limits. For example, despite being in the line of multiple gunshots several times, Joe seems to always get back on his feet with stride and his strength intact. The scene reminds one of that time in The Raid where Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) seems invincible as no matter what is done to him, he always recovers while seemingly full energy to fight back. 

The Night Comes for Us really is pure fantasy. It should stay that way.

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The Night Comes for Us

(Netflix, 120 minutes)
Director: Timo Tjahjanto
Starring: Joe Taslim, Iko Uwais, Asha Kenyeri Bermudez

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