Review: Night Catches Us DVD

STUDIO: Magnolia | DIRECTOR: Tanya Hamilton | CAST: AnthonyMackie, Kerry Washington, Wendell Pierce, Jamie Hector, Tariq Trotter
RELEASE DATE: 2/1/11 | PRICE: DVD $26.98, Blu-ray $29.99
BONUSES: featurettes, deleted scenes, alternate takes, premiere footage, more
SPECS: R | 88 min. | Drama | widescreen | stereo | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

For Night Catches Us, her feature film debut, writer/director Tanya Hamilton should be commended for taking on a seriously tricky and complex subject and serving it up in a style that rewards patience. Night Catches Us looks at the repercussions of 1960s radicalism and how the era’s politics led to potentially damaging after-effects.

Before you dismiss the film based on that appraisal, listen up. Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) is Marcus, a former member of the Black Panther party who returns to his home in the Germantown section of Philadelphia in 1976 after spending years away.

His Muslim brother (Tariq Trotter, Explicit Ills) steers clear of Marcus because he has been labeled a snitch, so Marcus finds shelter in the home of a community activist and lawyer Patty (Kerry Washington, Mother and Child) whose Panther husband was killed by a white cop. And while Marcus begins a relationship with Patty, he doesn’t get any warm welcomes from his former associates, Patty’s younger cousin (Amari Cheatom) who idolizes the Black Panthers, or a black detective with ties to Marcus’ past.

There are compelling moments throughout this movie, much of them supplied by the no-nonsense emoting of Mackie and Washington, veteran actors going the extra mile for a well-meaning independent film by a neophyte filmmaker. Unfortunately, some potential fireworks are underscored by Hamilton’s muted approach to the proceedings. Her strengths of relying on character interaction and playing down the potentially incendiary elements of the story also prove to be her biggest weaknesses.

Still, Night Catches Us is well worth a look for urban audiences, history fans and indie watchers who can embrace intelligent films made about topics that remain pertinent despite the decades that have passed since they they were hot button issues of the day.

Bonus features on the DVD include a group of deleted and alternate scenes and a look at the era’s growing Black Panther movement.

 

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.