Last September, director of the The Raid films, Gareth Evans, said there would probably never be another entry in the series, which was kinda devastating to someone who routinely talks about how much he loves The Raid 2 on this channel and just in his / my normal life. As much as I enjoyed his cult-horror film Apostle and think he has proved he needn’t be locked into the action genre, I still want Evans and series star Iko Uwais to come together for another cinematic silat showcase.
But whether that happens or not, fans still need their sweet sweet silat fix. And that’s where actually-Indonesian director Timo Tjahjanto has come in.
The Night Comes for Us hit Netflix last September, and though it’s exactly my kind of movie, it was not inevitable that I would see it. That’s because Timo Tjahjanto, alongside Kimo Stambeol – together known as The Mo Brothers – made one of the few films that I genuinely hate: 2014’s Killers.
Their previous film, 2009’s Macabre, was thoroughly bland, followed by a solo Tjahjanto short in The ABCs of Death – the entirely unpleasant L Is for Libido – and then a joint effort in V/H/S/2 with none other than Gareth Evans himself for “Safe Haven,” easily the best part of the anthology.
After Safe Haven, they seemed to have switched tracks: Tjahjanto’s films became more action-oriented, while Evans has ended up going full-on horror with Apostle. Killers, though, is a stain on everyone’s record. It is a genuinely mean film, one that takes glee in hurting innocent people because fuck you that’s why. And, like, no. I’m willing to accept pervasive, entirely unjustified cruelty from a film only if it’s accompanied by unmatched talent: something like Kim Jee-Woon’s I Saw the Devil or perhaps Takashi Miike’s Lesson of the Evil.
The Mo Brothers are no Kim or Miike.
So I put them out of mind. Even their decision to collaborate with Iko Uwais in 2016 with Headshot wasn’t going to convince me to give them another look.
Then it was late 2018 and Evans had said The Raid was/is through just as Tjahjanto was releasing another solo outing, this time starring Uwais and Joe Taslim, also from The Raid.
I realized much later that the pair of them had mentioned this movie to me when we spoke on the phone about Safe Haven all the way back in 2013 – at the time it was supposed to be Tjahjanto’s next and Evans would be the lead producer and part of the choreography team. Evans said he would, bare minimum, be helping out with the action beats. Obviously, things changed, because his name is not in the credits, but his influence is everywhere.
Hello, by the way, and welcome to The Week I Review. You can call me A True Believer in the Power of Handheld Camerawork, and today I’m coming very late to The Night Comes For Us party. But first: more Raid talk.
What makes The Raid’s fight sequences stand out is their unique combination of intense shaky-cam and total action clarity. It sounds oxymoronic, since handheld camerawork is so often a way to obscure action, but that’s not what happens here. Shots are typically somewhere between a wide and a medium with the occasional close-up for maximum impact of the impact, but in all cases it’s such that some wobble isn’t going to get in the way of your ability to comprehend what’s onscreen, because Evans is just really, really good at this whole filmmaking thing.
The wobble, then, becomes the tool it was meant for: to unsettle things, ratchet up that tension and keep you on edge.
Despite its reputation, shots in The Raid films aren’t typically that long, but something dramatic happens in each one, so whether it’s ten seconds long or less than one, it matters. I would say that the editing is pretty workman-like – Evans himself takes on the task: not remarkable but entirely serviceable. The reality is that, were pretty much any competent editor given the same footage, the final result would look largely the same, because they don’t shoot coverage. They go from segment to segment, doing each part as many times as necessary until they get it right.
And pretty much all of that applies to Here Comes The Night, though Tjahjanto’s eye has never been as keen as Evans’ – who again I think is genuinely underrated as a not-action director. So the actual photographing of the fights is reminiscent-of but not nearly at the same level that he works at.
That said, this is a huge step up from Headshot, based on the fight scenes from that I have since watched. They were, ya know, fine, but despite the talent onscreen – which is actually mostly the same between movies – it was clearly the work of someone figuring things out. Here Comes the Night is inevitably a more confident production. And a more expensive one. Both show.
Hell, even compared to The Raids, Tjahjanto has turned the intensity here up to 11. The takes are longer, the camera shakier; and the blood flowier.
On the last note: This movie is brutal in a way that is genuinely impressive considering how much of the gore is clearly practical. The logistics of some of those effects must have been a nightmare, but they pay off in the end.
That said, it occasionally feels like the movie is trying too hard. One moment that really stuck out as laughable is in this moment right before the two-on-one ladies-only fight where the white-haired killer walks over to a cross on the wall and then slowly, turns it upside down. (90 minutes)
Like, come on. In a movie with a lot of literal beating people over the head, this metaphorical one feels particularly egregious. And in general, the treatment of the woman fighters by the film isn’t the best.
Their fight is pretty awesome, though.
Speaking of awesome fights, if there is one complaint that can be levied at The Raid 2’s final confrontation – among my favorite one-on-ones ever and the product of literally months of preparation, it’s how one-sided it all is. Though Iko Uwais’s Rama certainly takes some punishment, he is ahead of Cecep Rahman’s assassin from the start and never really loses that momentum. It’s not as egregious as that last battle in the original John Wick, where they briefly attempted to make it seem like this old man had even a glimmer of a chance against the Babayaga, but it is slightly too bad that you never really feel like Rama is in danger.
At the start of Here Comes The Night’s equivalent when Uwais and Taslim finally go head-to-head, it almost feels like they’re going in that direction, except here the bad guy has the way upper hand. So, that can’t be right. And indeed it must even out over the, no joke, twelve minutes that the fight lasts.
That’s right, this battle is twice as long as The Raid 2’s kitchen scene, and it’s not padded to fill that time – they genuinely have twelve minutes of fight in them. And what it lacks in directorial polish is made up for in intensity. Like, you get exhausted just watching the two of them go at it for that long. It’s not the kind of thing you can watch over and over again the way I can and do many of The Raid series’ best, but every time you see it you can’t help but think, “Wow.”
With this film, Timo Tjahjanto has proven himself to be a more-than-capable action director, learning many of the right lessons from one of the best of our time alongside some truly top-tier martial artists. He’s not the most talented writer/director more generally, but I am glad, at bare minimum, that someone has picked up the Silat slack.
Seven Point Nine out of Ten