“The Night Comes for Us” turns the gore setting up to 10 in a martial-arts showcase, with more corn-syrup blood than a Midwest corn-maze on Oct. 26 (not everyone can go out on a Wednesday). And along that line of thinking, “Night Comes” might be the best Spooktacular option this skeleton season, dropping ghosts and ghouls in lieu of Indonesian gangsters drop-kicking each other.
Writer/director Timo Tjahjanto’s (“May the Devil Take You”) film follows an ex-Triad enforcer Ito (Joe Taslim, “The Raid: Redemption”) who, after an abrupt moral epiphany, turns against the organization to save a young girl Reina (Asha Kenyeri Bermudez, “The Doll”). The ensuing power-struggle as the Triad tries to tie up their loose end brings the brawl to a night-club, a high-rise, a warehouse and a human meat locker, evening out to be one of the best installments of splatter-cinema in a long time. “Night Comes” is low-in-the-throat, involuntary-yelp gory — the type of movie that is perfect to watch with a group of friends, but one that might raise questions if you enjoy it a little too much alone.
The focus on the story and characters is light — a new fighter will appear and throw themselves into the foray with no need for introduction or purpose or explanation before they are impaled on a meat hook or thrown from a building, never to be seen again. It’s a movie light on plot, and it only could have improved by going lighter. Is the aim of everyone with a gun in the movie comically bad? For sure. Should all martial-arts movies have a Batman ban on firearms? Absolutely. Does the Triad seem to have an unending supply of goons willing to throw themselves at the good guys? Think “World War Z” with machetes. No one should go through the trouble of HDMI-ing their laptop to their living room TV to watch this film if they want a Netflix distributed picture with plot. Don’t even turn on subtitles, actually. Just sit back and watch heads roll.
And there’s an important distinction to be made here between a film that is just so candidly gory that it can be made out to be fun and a film like “Night Comes,” which seems to have been specifically crafted by a technical hand. The choreography and the camera work of the fight scenes is second to none, Tjahjanto finding ways to incorporate the battleground of each scene into the action itself. The individual characters aren’t as stylized as characters in a film by someone like Tarantino, but the feel of the action — leaving logic at the door — is strikingly reminiscent.
Tjahjanto, a director with more than a couple of thrillers in his filmography, has a terrific understanding of what to show in a fight scene. He begins a scene by gliding his camera around his brawlers, giving the audience a sense of where the fighters are and what tools in the environment might later be at their disposal. No stone is left unturned, each of these props eventually put to murderous use as Tjahjanto bounces through the progressing engagement. He cuts away very sparingly during the fights, giving the action a sense of spectacle that disappears when each kick or punch gets its own shot. The last movie with action as impressive as “Night Comes” would be “Ip Man,” a lofty comparison in terms of martial arts films.