It’s fair to say that Indonesian action cinema is somewhat of a niche in the western world - but as fans of pieces such as 2011’s The Raid know, the genre contains some of the best fight scenes ever put on screen. So when Netflix announced they would be distributing The Night Comes for Us, an Indonesian action thriller starring the lead actors from The Raid, the news was met with hopeful excitement. Has it lived up to the hype? Not quite.
The film stars Joe Taslim as Ito, a triad hitman who goes rogue after refusing to kill a young girl, plunging him into a fight for survival as the full might of the triad bears down upon him. He does a relatively good job in the role - though it’s one sparse of dialogue, and lacking much character depth. Iko Uwais puts in another decent performance as triad bulldog Arian, who’s sent to hunt down his former friend Ito, the remainder of the performances in the film are decidedly lacking. Throughout, the film makes much of a group of hitmen known as the ‘Six Seas’, the triad’s best of the best, sent only for high priority jobs - they are the real threat from which Ito is fleeing. The problem is, we’re never given a real reason to fear them; of the ‘Six’ mentioned, only two stick out in my memory as even having appeared in the film, and each was portrayed with the kind of hammy malice one might expect from a video game boss. True, they’re shown to kill people in some pretty inventively brutal ways, which in another film might elicit more respect from audiences, but given the levels of carnage depicted onscreen for the duration, the group fails to provide any threat that the hordes of underlings bearing machetes don’t already.
What should have been a simple but thrilling plot - expert hitman hunted down by equally skilled assassins to protect the life of a young girl - somehow ends up as convoluted as many of ts fight scenes, which is to say sluggish, confusing and full of characters doing things simply because the script demands it. Characters are introduced and killed off with little impact, and for much of the first half, the idea of the ‘hunt' is discarded in favour of scenes in which Ito kills people, the plot stagnating until at least the 50-minute mark. This film was always going to be violent. But it's so self-indulgent in its violence as to almost losing its way; I wouldn't be surprised if writer/director Timo Tjahjanto scripted the brawls first, then threw together a rough plot simply to get each character from fight to fight.
Bizarrely, the sound design is lacking throughout the entire film - at times it's almost comical, stock sound effects drowning out the more realistic audio recorded on-set. Dialogue is occasionally accompanied by the metallic buzzing one gets from a poorly-tuned microphone - an amateur error that has no place in a feature film. Though not too prevalent, there are also some truly astounding continuity errors in the film; one scene, in particular, shot outside on a highway, cuts from day to night between shots.
Overall, The Night Comes for Us is something of a disappointment; carried by a frankly uninteresting script, and coming in at just over 2 hours long, it's far more of a slog than it needs to be. Whilst it eventually finds its fighting feet, it's too little too late; the final two fights are truly stunningly choreographed, but as a climax feel unearned, the poor character development hindering any attempt at giving the deaths that end the film any proper weight. Those in the mood for a bloodfest are sure to be entertained, but if it's action with a real heart you're looking for, it won't be found here.