The Night Comes For Us (Netflix, 2018)

As steaming services play a bigger and bigger role in the film and television industry, a lot of attention is going to their original content–but mainly streaming television shows. What about streaming movies? What hidden gems or washed up flops are hiding under the “___ Original” tab? Lets see what is awash in the stream.

The Night Comes For Us (2018)

Netflix

Director: Timo Tjahjanto

Writer: Timo Tjahjanto

 

      How many machete-wielding Triad members getting beat up, stabbed, disemboweled, impaled, shot, and set on fire is too many? If you have an actual answer to this question, The Night Comes For Us is not for you. There is an unnecessarily complicated plot, but what The Night Comes For Us is really about is using martial arts to brutally kill waves of faceless criminals.

      The plot: Ito (Joe Taslim) is a member of the Six Seas, infamous Triad enforcers that carry out the most brutal and high profile hits. Ito is assigned to lead a squad to wipe out a small village, where fisherman had been skimming from Triad smugglers. The film opens with the village in smoky ruins, the only survivor is a little girl lying face-down on the beach. Ito is unable to bring himself to shoot her, and instead turns on the other Triad members. Ito and the girl, Reina (Asha Kenyari Bermudez) go on the run, planning to pick up fake passports, some quick cash, and flee the country to stay ahead of the Triad. This sounds like it could be the set up for an Indonesian The Professional, but the film instead swerves into a different direction, and never quite settles on what kind of story it is.

      Ito takes Reina to Jakarta, to hideout with Shinta (Salvita Decorte), a woman who used to be in a small gang with Ito before he was recruited to the Triad. Shinta gets the remainder of the ganger togher–Fatih (Abimana Aryasatya), Bobby (Zack Lee), and Fatih’s young cousin Wisnu (Dimas Anggara), who joined only recently and “hero-worships” Ito.  Meanwhile,Triad boss Chien Wu (Sunny Pang) sends Arian (Iko Uwais), who had also been part of Ito’s old gang before being joining the Triad, to Jakarta to track down Ito and Reina. Here, the film seems to be settling into a crime drama version of a “corporate big shot returns home and learns what’s really important” story, with Ito relying on the camadrie of his old gang to reject the merciless Six Seas persona and protect Reina, while Arian is conflicted between loyalty to the old gang and a big promotion being offered by the Triad. However, this theme ends up coming to nothing, with the old gang being little more than plot devices that disappear halfway through the film.

      Ito gets some fake passports pretty quickly, but decides to rob a rival gang to get some cash to disappear with. This is where things start to over-complicate. Bobby points him towards Yohan (Revaldo), a former fence the gang worked with who now runs a mini-empire out of a butcher shop. However, the Triad has already reached out to Yohan and sub-contracted him to turnover Ito and send men to assist in an attack on Shinta and Fatih’s apartment. So Ito fights Yohan’s men in the butcher shop, and a squad of corrupt cops, while the rest of the old crew (minus Shinta, who just walks out of the movie at this point) fights off a literal army of machete-wielding gangsters.

      The fight in the butcher shop is a violent mix of grace and brutality, as the combatants go at use high-level martial arts to wildly stab at each other. It also features the most visceral ‘person getting impaled on meat hooks’ scene since Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And the fight with the cops, confined in the back of a paddy wagon, is very tense, standout kill being a cop getting an entire machine gun clip emptied directly into his face at point-blank range. However, the siege at the apartment is where the film stumbles a bit. The fight choreography is top-notch, but the dramatics are weak.

     With Ito elsewhere, the fight is focused on Fatih, Bobby and Wisnu, who are likable enough, but also very clearly secondary characters. The source of tension is Reina, hiding in a closet in the back–nobody is going to be on the edge of their seats, hoping cousin Wisnu makes it out okay. There is still a charge in a horde of machete-wielding bad guys getting their ass kicked, but it would be stronger if you had more of a connection to the characters. Fatih is “responsible friend,” and Bobby is “comic relief, who doesn’t really get a chance to tell a joke.” Reina also doesn’t really get much to do, but a little orphan girl is automatically very sympathetic.

      The old gang is wiped out, and the film shifts back to more ‘assassin and little girl’ plotting, with addition of a mysterious woman known only as The Operator (Julie Estelle). The Operator wants to wipe out the Six Seas, and after confirming that Ito is going rogue, agrees to help him. Why the Operator wants to wipe out the Six Seas isn’t explained at all. She’s basically just a walking plot device, but Estelle manages to bring enough charisma to the role to make her far more interesting than she should be.

      The third act of the film is essentially a repeat of the second act, with Ito launching an assault on a Triad base while the Triad launch an attack on the apartment to get Reina. This time, it is Ito taking on a literal army of Triad henchman, while the Operator’s preference for guns and explosives has the second apartment siege play very differently (although it does end with the most egregious use of ‘put down my gun to face the last, toughest combatant hand to hand’). The film never really finds a way to escalate, although the final fight with Ito and Arian delivers on a slow motion, climatic brutality.

       The Night Comes For Us has a lot of ideas, but never gives itself space to follow through on them. The dynamic of Ito returning to his old gang to take on the Triad is interesting, but is executed in a way that is vague and confusing without much specificity into how the small gangs actually interact with the Triad. Reina doesn’t really get much time to interact with anybody, and is more of a macguffin than a character in her own right–Ito doesn’t learn her name until over an hour into the movie, in a scene where she tells us the personalities of her adopted criminal family in case we didn’t pick up on them. Arian’s conflict over loyalty to his old friends or a promotion within the Triad isn’t given much room, and hinges on a confusing twist that doesn’t really make sense. Still, The Night Comes For Us is first and foremost a martial arts–specifically Silat, the same kind used in The Raid, also starring Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais–and the fights are among the best action sequences I’ve seen. It doesn’t match The Raid, but it easily stands alongside it.

 

HIdden Gem or Washed Up Flop? Hidden Gem