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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Even The Raid looks tame next to this Netflix orgy of martial arts mayhem

Illustration for article titled Even iThe Raid/i looks tame next to this Netflix orgy of martial arts mayhem
Screenshot: The Night Comes For Us

Watch This offers movie recommendations inspired by new releases, premieres, current events, or occasionally just our own inscrutable whims. This week: We look back on highlights of the DTV action craze—some of the coolest, wildest, and most entertaining action movies to skip theaters entirely.

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The Night Comes For Us (2018)

Nothing about Timo Tjahjanto’s career has been measured. The writer-director’s full-length debut, Macabre (co-directed with Kimo Stamboel and based on their award-winning short, “Dara”), is a grisly slasher, the first Indonesian film ever to be banned in Malaysia for “excessive violence.” On the strength of that movie (and a truly repellent sequence from dreary horror anthology The ABCs Of Death), Tjahjanto landed a gig directing one of the segments in V/H/S/2, and proceeded (along with co-director Gareth Evans) to contribute one of the wildest spectacles of found footage. It seemed a new master of horror was on the rise.

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Instead, Tjahjanto dove into the world of action, with what in retrospect looks like a personal mission to craft violence so kinetic and bombastic that it stops just short of a live-action, R-rated Looney Tunes. After teaming twice more with Stamboel, Tjahjanto struck out on his own with The Night Comes For Us, an organized-crime yarn that proves the director to be among the finest purveyors of can-you-top-this mayhem working today. What first comes across like it’s going to be Tjahjanto’s homage to Asian gangster movie royalty like John Woo and Johnnie To quickly reveals itself to be a madcap bloodbath, more in line with the wilder tendencies of Takashi Miike. While cut from the same stylistic cloth, Evans has slowly gravitated toward more operatic bombast (The Raid 2, The Apostle), whereas Tjahjanto’s proclivities have remained laser-focused: The messier, more gruesome, and more uproariously chaotic, the better.

It speaks volumes of the director’s skill at pacing that his blood-simple tale of mafia payback tops two hours’ running time yet never once feels bloated—or even like it’s pausing to catch its breath. The Night Comes For Us begins when Ito (Joe Taslim), one of six ruthless elite enforcers (dubbed the “Six Seas”) for the South East Asian Triad, has a Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment when he’s directed to instruct his men to assassinate a young girl. Ito turns his gun on the mobsters instead, taking the girl into his protection and fleeing to his childhood home in Jakarta, where he assembles a posse to defend against the Triad goons on his tail. Looming throughout is the threat of a showdown with old friend Arian (Iko Uwais), who will be promoted to Ito’s vacated position in the Six Seas if he can take down his childhood pal.

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Tjahjanto keeps his leads apart for nearly the entire film, the better to build anticipation for the inevitable clash between two ass-kicking stars of The Raid. Anyway, who needs a reunion when you have raging infernos, mini boss fights, and an endless supply of garden-variety thugs getting their heads cracked open? Each action sequence has its own unique style and structure; as in the John Wick films, copious amounts of creativity and innovation are deployed to ensure the bloodletting never becomes repetitive or tiresome. There’s so much exuberant carnage, a viewer might not even mind when Tjahjanto introduces a new main character halfway through—a mysterious assassin (Julie Estelle) with little connection to anyone else.

It’s the type of action movie that fanatics of the genre are always in search of: a nonstop barrage of over-the-top fight scenes, as inspired in their staging as they are gratuitously brutal. There are even a few sequences whose splatter-happy kills hearken back to the horror genre in which Tjahjanto first made his name (and in which he’s continued to work—he released the fright-fest May The Devil Take You, available on Netflix, the same year). All told, nothing in his oeuvre has yet topped the sheer spectacle of this blood-soaked bonanza. Oh, and when his two stars from The Raid do finally meet? Worth the wait.

Availability: The Night Comes For Us is streaming exclusively on Netflix.

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Alex McLevy is a writer and editor at The A.V. Club, and would kindly appreciate additional videos of robots failing to accomplish basic tasks.

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