Published on December 14th, 2010 | by Alicia0
Night Catches Us… Though We Don’t Quite Catch Back
Night Catches Us is an independent film set in Philadelphia in 1976, and is written and directed by first-time director Tanya Hamilton. It focuses on the lives of two ex-Black Panther members – Patty (Kerry Washington – “Ray,” “Mother and Child”) and Marcus (Anthony Mackie – “The Hurt Locker,” “Half Nelson”), and their efforts to escape their past and address unresolved issues (including possible romantic feelings) between them.
The film examines the aftermath of the end of the Black Panthers movement. Interspersed with footage of civil unrest, senseless police brutality, and Black Panther demonstrations, these images and the movie’s soundtrack were perhaps my favorite aspects, with funky, high-energy grooves playing throughout the movie.
The viewers discover early in the movie that Marcus, just returning to his neighborhood after some time to attend his father’s funeral, is a snitch and has been ostracized from his community. We witness the consequences of being labeled a snitch in the community, such as his deceased father’s beloved black Cadillac being emblazoned with the word “Snitch,” a bar fight with Dwaye “DoRight” Miller (Jamie Hector), the leader of what remains of the Black Panthers, and coldness from his own family members. It becomes clear that Marcus is an honorable man with a kind soul who is trying as best he can to deal with his situation.
In spite of Marcus’s ostracism, Patty remains a loyal friend and invites the drifter to stay with her when he has nowhere to go. Patty has turned into the neighborhood’s caretaker, feeding the neighborhood children and opening her house to others as needed. Despite her virtuous tendencies, Patty is stuck in the past, living in the same house where her husband, a Black Panther, was murdered by the police years ago. Her 9-year-old daughter Iris (Jamara Griffin) seeks to find the answers to her father’s passing and the tumultuous events that happened when she was just a newborn.
I found the most interesting character to be Jimmy (Amari Cheatom), an 18-year-old orphan who supports himself by collecting aluminum cans. In one of the first scenes of the movie, he is given a hard time by a cop and after talking back, is arrested. This event begins his hatred of the police. Young and misguided, he becomes enthralled with the Black Panther movement that he was too young to participate in. His interest evolves from closely reading civil rights comic books to brazen violence, shooting out a police car’s back window with a gun. Spiraling into madness, Jimmy becomes his own worst enemy.
There is a twist to the plot, although frankly I didn’t think it was that big of a revelation to make for an interesting plot. I can’t help but wonder if the old footage and soundtrack carried the movie more than it should have. Being from Philadelphia myself, I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t apparent that the movie took place in Philadelphia; it could have been in any East coast city. I enjoyed the 70s fashions, which were cool and tasteful, not the gaudy 70s fashions that films sometimes employ. Somewhat amusing, even the beautiful Kerry Washington couldn’t overcome some of the unflattering fashions and hairstyles of that decade.
While “Night Watches Us” had its moments, including strong acting, the movie failed to take off due to a weak plot and less than compelling plot twist, and it ends with a whimper.