Every so often, a movie comes along that wipes the floor with your face. I’m talking about a special treat that literally makes your jaw drop because the violence is so extreme you can’t believe someone’s imagination thought of it. I’m talking about a movie that makes you utter phrases like “Holy shit” out loud because what’s taking place on-screen takes you by surprise. Movies like this — the Raids, the Green Rooms, etc. — remind you why you fell in love with the art of cinema in the first place. And while you’ll wince a couple of times, you’ll also beam with joy and feel alive.
In 2018, The Night Comes for Us is that movie. Timo Tjahjanto’s latest is a balls-to-the-wall action extravaganza for the ages. It’s not fair to other action movies in all fairness, but this one has raised a new bar for all future efforts to try and reach. Heck, even movies that are only half as good as The Night Comes for Us will still be impressive in their own right. This one is next-level and I doubt we’ll see something this bone-crunchingly brutal and awesome for a while. If any movie tops this lightning in the foreseeable future I will probably have a heart attack. Too much excitement is a lot to handle sometimes.
The plot is simple: Ito (Joe Taslim) is a gangster who turns his back on his Triad brothers and sisters when he decides to save the life of a little girl they want dead. His actions have consequences, though as the Indonesian criminal underworld is now out to get him, which means our hero must slaughter his way through weapon-wielding hordes of savage maniacs to protect the kid and make it to his final showdown with old friend Arian (Iko Uwais). What ensues is chaos incarnate, as we witness massacres in butcher shops and snooker balls crushing skulls. It’s glorious. If you haven’t watched it yet, then drop what you’re doing immediately and fix that.
That said, if you want to read about how great The Night Comes for Us is as a whole, then check out our own Rob Hunter’s gushing review. That’s not why we’re here (even though I have already gushed a fair amount). No, we’re here to talk about Julie Estelle, the future queen of action cinema. In the movie, she plays the Operator, a mystery assassin who helps Ito in his quest to do the right thing. Naturally, she slays some criminal scum along the way in beautifully brutal ways. She’s also the embodiment of all that is cool and badass; her character dwells in the shadows until she’s ready to make her presence known. When she does, bad guys drop like pins and part ways with her mortality.
Estelle’s collaborations with Tjahjanto date all the way back to his debut feature-length Macabre. However, she was introduced to international action aficionados after appearing in Gareth Evans’ masterpiece The Raid 2. In that movie, she wore shades and beat the living shit out of goons with hammers. She was awe-inspiring and terrifying at the same time, and one of the highlights of a movie that’s essentially a cinematic highlight reel in general. In 2016, she re-teamed with Tjahjanto and Uwais in Headshot, another brutal actioner which saw her brawl with the former on a beach in a fight to the death. Once again, her role was that of a background player, but she certainly made a memorable impression and further proved that she could get mix it up with the best of them.
The Night Comes for Us allows most of its cast — even the smallest bit-part players — to shine. Seriously — there are several here who deserve their own prequel or spin-off solo outing. And while Taslim and Uwais are the stars of the show, Estelle steals it. We’ve seen impressive glimpses of her talent up until now, sure, but The Night Comes for Us is a leap forward that’s set her up for bigger things going forward. The film used Uwais and Taslim to lure us in, but the future of the series is Estelle.
According to Tjahjanto, The Night Comes for Us is the first in a trilogy of bloodbath opuses. We need more movies set in this universe, so that’s great news for us. But the best part about more of these movies is getting to see the Operator’s journey continue. She’s the only logical character to continue the saga, and that’s the plan judging by the director’s tweets. Her character hints at a much bigger underworld at play, and we need to see more of it.
However, leading the sequel will also establish Estelle as the leading action maverick she’s destined to be. Directors like Tjahjanto go into each movie with the aim to top their last effort, so I have no doubt in my mind that the sequel will be masterful and make our new favorite action heroine look like a trillion bucks. This is the type of gritty and pummelling action fare that showcases the genre at its finest, and that certainly won’t hurt Estelle as she edges closer to domination.
Hollywood really ought to take notice of this badass as well. The actress boasts such a commanding screen presence and effortlessly compelling aura that she could become a household name in the West if she picks the right roles. We don’t want another Mile 22 situation where a special Eastern talent is wasted, but I’m willing to accept that not every action movie needs to be as epic as The Night Comes for Us. A strong role in a John Wick or Fast and the Furious movie would suffice and let her showcase her stuff. Or you could just build a brand new franchise around her because she’s more than ready to take the world by storm.
Some people possess an IT factor. You can’t quite pinpoint what makes them special, but you know they are. Not only is Estelle #legit when it comes to throwing down and getting her knuckles bruised and bloody, but she feels like a rock star. The moment she showed up in The Raid 2 and punctured throats with a tool epitomized that captivating appeal. The Night Comes for Us has only solidified it. That’s the type of star filmmakers should be building their movies around, and they should be willing to fight each other to the death to have her in their movies.