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The Night Comes for Us (2018), perhaps the BEST EVER gritty Asian martial arts movie.

November 24, 2018

MY CALL: Not that I’m an expert on the topic but, all said, this may be the BEST EVER gritty Asian martial arts movie. The Raid: Redemption (2011) and Kill Zone 2 (2015) have been dethroned. There, I said it! MOVIES LIKE The Night Comes for Us: For more great Asian martial arts and/or gritty hard-R crime action, aim for Hard-Boiled (1992), Ong-Bak (2003), The Protector (2005), Undisputed 2 (2006), Blood and Bone (2009), The Raid: Redemption (2011), The Raid 2 (2014) and Kill Zone 2 (2015); followed by Kill Zone (2005), Chocolate (2009), Skin Trade (2014), Boyka: Undisputed IV (2016) and Paradox (2017; aka Sha Po Lang 3).

I consider the Kill Zone/Sha Po Lang (2005-2017) series to be the top notch gritty Asian crime movies with Kill Zone 2 (2015) by far boasting the most technically sound fight choreography and elaborate fight scenes. But not only that, these films have such well-manicured lighting, set design and cinematography as well as the solid writing and acting to transcend others of their genre. The Night Comes for Us readily compares!

After turning his back on the Triad and fleeing to save a little girl’s life, Ito (Joe Taslim; The Raid: Redemption, Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek: Beyond) is on the run and fellow Triad elite Arian (Iko Uwais; The Raid: Redemption, Merantau, Beyond Skyline) is summoned to “handle” the problem. That is, Arian and several other hit squads and assassins.

While on the run and in combat Ito’s eyes dart around wildly like scared prey, and Arian the calm, confident hunter. To compare their action movie demeanor, Arian seems flawless and unbeatable whereas Ito is more like a walking bruise that brutalizes his way through one foe after another against all odds (think Bruce Willis from Die Hard).

When we first meet Arian, he lays waste to a room of goons with masterful use; each strike, stab and break executed with the grace of a Matador, ever aware of his surroundings like an ancient monk. Quite to the contrary, Ito’s first conflict is the “seven butchers” fight scene, which has the most pleasingly crisp lighting and set design. The bright red sides of beef gorgeously contrast the stark meat locker and as the blood flows the surfaces are aglow in crimson. Ito has a far less confident, almost desperate sincerity to his fighting style. I yelled at the screen when a man was shot in the foot and his toes all but exploded across the floor, I laugh-gasped when Ito bruted a man onto a hanging meat hook, and I utterly cackled as we wandered into Evil Dead (1981, 2013) blood splatter-in-the-face territory during the bone shard impalements and the “bonesaw incident.”

Blood finds its way onto the screen with similar creative inspiration as to how Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais and Scott Adkins bring creative techniques and maneuvers. This isn’t just any violent shoot’em up or stab-and-grab. Chunky gory flesh wounds abound! With all manner of unique stabbings and innovative holes being blown and cut through people, this is every bit as brutal as The Raid: Redemption (2011) and an absolute blast for any gorehound or ultraviolent cinema fan. There’s a mushy head smash I’d put up there with Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017), the police transport fight scene features heads and bodies getting “chunked” for lack of a better word, there’s some clever use of a sort of garroting piano wire weapon… and did I mention how this is perhaps the most “effectively bloody” film I’ve ever seen? I was constantly wincing and twitching about in my seat.

This is the kind of film in which every stab matters. I cannot recall ever seeing so many visceral neck injuries or “partial” dismemberments in one movie, so many different uses for meat hooks (including a mean “groin rip”), and so many strikes that forced me to react! Faces are literally blown off on-screen, holes are blown out of people’s backs on-screen, and tattered corpses pile up like a zombie apocalypse.

I still remember when I thought the opening fight scene in Fist of Legend (1994) was the most brutal limb-breaking maelstrom I had ever seen. Well, when Ito fights a warehouse of bad guys we get it with added blood, blades, and much meaner breaks—just rooms and rooms festooned with dead bodies. Moreover, I feel as if revisiting Hard-Boiled (1992) would be boring after seeing this—not that it wasn’t a wowing ultraviolent classic of its era.

Oh, but the ladies get to have their fun, too. Alma the garrotress (Dian Sastrowardoyo) and Elena the blonde assassin (Hannah Al Rashid; Jailangkung 1-2, Ritual, V/H/S 2) versus the Operator (Julie Estelle; The Raid 2, The Chanting 1-3, Headshot). This fight got serious. Really, someone tried to tuck their guts back in and keep on fighting.

What I love most about this martial arts movie is the complete lack of (obvious) wirework. No one did super-jumps or threw people ten feet or hit people across rooms. They kept shit real! Moreover, there were few moments of faster than 1x film to speed up movement in fights. It was very rare, and used so sparingly that most would miss it altogether. Again, they kept shit real!

But then it was just Arian and Ito… I have never, ever, EVER screamed at my television so loud or so often as I did during this HUGE, LONG, AWESOME fight scene. Perhaps best fight scene ever? You be the judge. This was epic and I’m not saying anything else about it.

Writer/director Timo Tjahjanto (May the Devil Take You, Headshot, V/H/S 2, The ABCs of Death) was someone of whom I had never heard—now his is a name I won’t forget because I now must see everything he’s ever done. Not that I’m an expert on the topic but, all said, this may be the BEST EVER gritty Asian martial arts movie. The Raid: Redemption (2011) and Kill Zone 2 (2015) have been dethroned. There, I said it!

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