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Published on December 14th, 2010 | by Alicia


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.

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