Action fans could hardly wish for anything more than what’s served up in “The Night Comes for Us,” a Jakarta-set Triad crime epic boasting some of the most inventive, gory, and dazzlingly choreographed screen violence in recent memory. Confidently executed by Indonesian writer-director Timo Tjahjanto, whose credits as one half of the Mo Brothers team include “Killers” and “Headshot,” this cartoonish cavalcade of carnage potently reunites “The Raid” stars Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais as former friends on a corpse-strewn collision course. Though confusing at times and a little too much of a good thing at two hours, “Night” should satisfy the target audience via Netflix, where it launches Oct. 19.
An extremely energetic workout on the familiar tale of a criminal who turns his back on the mob following a crisis of conscience, “Night” sets things up with text information about “The Six Seas,” an elite squad of Triad enforcers. One of these is Ito (Taslim), who snaps after being sent to wipe out everyone in a coastal village.
Unable to shoot cute young girl Reina (Asha Kenyeri Bermudez), Ito instead murders his own goons and flees to Jakarta, where he appeals for help from ex-girlfriend Shinta (Salvita Decorte) and old gang members including Fatih (Abimana Aryasatya) and White Boy Bobby (Zack Lee, “Buffalo Boys”). After tearing strips off Ito for abandoning them all those years ago Fatih and company take one look at the petrified Reina and fall back in line behind their former boss.
The crime family’s reunion is nicely intercut with local Triad chief Chien Wu (Sunny Pang, “Headshot”) rounding up an army of henchman to eliminate Ito, Reina and anyone else in the way. Called in from Macau to oversee the operation is Arian (Uwais), Ito’s best friend and trusted gang lieutenant before both were sucked into the Triad machine and drifted apart.
Ito’s attempt to keep Reina alive and the countdown to his inevitable moment of reckoning with Arian are the film’s simple and effective tools to keep viewers emotionally engaged throughout a relentless and hugely entertaining exhibition of ultra-violence.
With the invaluable assistance of Uwais, who also serves as fight choreographer, Tjahjanto stages one breathtaking scene after another. Consisting of almost nothing but highlights, the action is so intensely and consistently over the top that “Night” travels beyond the boundaries of a crime film and becomes something more akin to splatter horror or a video game gone berserk. Combatants don’t just deliver savage knife wounds that penetrate forearms and abdomens. They run the knife up and down for good measure, separating tendons from bones and causing entrails to spill out on already blood-soaked floors. Whether it be fistfights, knife fights, gunplay, or booby-trapped corridors in grimy apartment blocks, there are countless moments to impress even the most jaded action buffs.
Though it’s often difficult to work out exactly who’s trying to kill whom and for what precise reason, all those who show up for duty do not disappoint. Among the most exciting and accomplished fighters are Chien Wu’s vicious sidekicks, Elena (Hannah Al Rashid) and Alma (Dian Sastrowardoyo). We’ve seen lesbian assassins before, but this duo are something else. Their extended death-match duel with a mysterious female killer who comes to Ito’s aid and appears on the credit roll as “Operator” (Julie Estelle) is a knockout.
As pulse-pounding and eye-popping as this is, “Night” does carry on a bit long and some general viewers may experience a slight case of “excitement fatigue” before the almost unbelievably brutal showdown between Ito and Arian takes place. That said, the film’s hardcore constituency will be wanting more of this from Tjahjanto, and a sequel, prequel, or even franchise would not surprise from here.
Ace cinematographer Gunnar Nimpuno (“Killers,” “Modus Anomali’) uses widescreen framing to splendid effect in both open spaces and tight environments, such as lifts and police vans, where mind-bogglingly furious action takes place. Especially memorable is Nimpuno’s use of a camera rig mounted on the backs of performers to provide startling over-the-head-and-shoulders perspectives during fight scenes. In the midst of all this mayhem, it hardly matters that a few CGI shots of spurting blood aren’t convincing. Rounding out the solid technical package is a peppy, synth-based score by “The Raid” duo Fajar Yuskemal and Aria Prayogi that employs throat-singing to strong effect whenever Ito manages to take a short break from killing and contemplate a life less violent.