The Night Comes for Us (dir. Timo Tjahjanto, 2018) – Turning on his mission, Ito falls out of favour with his Triad crime family.
Following in the boisterous footsteps of The Raid, The Night Comes for Us invites controversy in its relentless savagery, which never lessens the evocative weight of familial bonds.
Determined to escape a life of murders on the Triad’s orders, Ito (Joe Taslim) goes on the run after sparing a child’s life. A prolonged bloodbath ensues. Sure enough, horror no longer monopolises gore in film these days. The Night Comes For Us comes at the tail end of a New Indonesian Extreme in the action scene, following the unexpected success of Gareth Evans’ ultra-violent The Raid.
As Evans moves into a more atmospheric and considerably less bloody territory with Apostle, director Timo Tjahjanto comfortably takes his place at the forefront of bone-snapping, throat-slitting, and tendon-slicing brutality. Not that he needed the cue from Evans in the first place.
Having launched his career in horror alongside Kimo Stamboel as the Mo Brothers, Tjahjanto is more than familiar with the spurting crimson that so readily floods his films. 2016 saw the pair’s first venture into action-driven carnage with Headshot, where characters survive multiple stabbings and bullet wounds, only to suffer more. And here I was, thinking that Revenge was ruthless.
Starring men at its start and slabs of butchered meat towards its end, The Night Comes For Us is Tjahjanto’s solo and most gory effort yet, but also his most polished. The lack of characterisation, as in Headshot, is a lesser problem here. Rather than relatably righteous heroics, the narrative throws us into the complex underworld of immoral men, where the bad takes on the worse.
The cast of characters is phenomenal. Chien Wu (Sunny Pang) puts a face to the operation as he pulls the strings of the vindictive missions. Under him is genre regular Iko Iwais, whose ruthless and ambitious executioner Arian finally lifts him out of the good-guy typecasting. There is also a welcome indulgence in femme fatale, pitting triad enforcers Alma (Dian Sastrowardoyo) and Elena (Hannah Al Rashid) against the unblinking assassin The Operator (Julie Estelle).
Coming close to the only sympathetic anti-hero in the film, Ito thinks himself less than redemptive despite his unconditional protection of young Reina. He acknowledges his selfish reasons for rescuing the child, “I’m not saving her. I’m saving myself.”
Yet the fatherly bond he gradually forms with Reina is undeniable, as is the kinship that he shares with his old gang. In this, genuine loss is felt when each succumbs in their willing sacrifice for another. Influence stems from heroic bloodshed in Hong Kong action cinema akin to Johnnie To’s Election, where power play leads to a copious amount of havoc and compellingly puts a test to the loyalty of gangland brotherhoods.