The 60′s, arguably the most interesting decade of the 20th century, brought a wave of social and political movement to the US. Among the plethora of political groups advocating for under-represented citizens were The Black Panthers, grounded in black nationalism. First time writer/director Tanya Hamilton’s Night Catches Us highlights a group of former Panthers grappling with the late aftermath of the movement on the south side of Philly. The film stars Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington and hits theaters nationwide Friday, December 3rd.

Check out the review below…

The Players:

  • Writer/Director: Tanya Hamilton
  • Producers: Ron Simons, Sean Costello, Jason Orans
  • Cast: Kerry Washington, Anthony Mackie, Jamie Hector, Wendell Pierce

The Plot:

The picture takes place in 1976. Marcus (Mackie) returns home to his Philadelphia neighborhood where he “came of age” amidst the Black Power movement. Given that he left the hood without a word of explanation, his return raises suspicion among his family and old neighbors. Marcus finds himself at odds with an organization he once embraced, specifically because it’s former members suspect he orchestrated the slaying of a former Panther. We watch Marcus struggle to reestablish himself in his hometown community, mend a relationship with old friend Patricia (Washington) and dodge the hostile (and still bitter) Philly cops.

The Good:

  • 70′s Vibe: The most noteworthy facet of this film is it’s detail, specifically in regards to the environment it’s set in. Hamilton really captures the essence of the decade she’s recreating. The locations in Philadelphia are dressed perfectly, the wardrobe choices (from hair to shoes) are spot on, and the incredibly dope soundtrack by The Roots couldn’t compliment the visuals more.
  • Performances: The picture was very well acted from the principle roles to the supporting ones.
  • Patty’s P.O.V: A large portion of the story is told through the Patty’s (Patricia’s 10 year old daughter) point of view, who’s desperate to make sense of the events that are responsible for shaping the logistics of her life. It’s an interesting window into a world she’s far too young to completely make sense of, making the story slightly more interesting than it would’ve been  otherwise.

The Bad:

  • Predictable: Unfortunately, within minutes of the first scene the audience know exactly what’s ahead. The film highlights an era most people are familiar with, and Marcus’ story isn’t particularly fresh or intriguing. All of the predictable events occur: scuffles with old pals, fights between white cops and old Panthers, and a love affair with Patricia. Boring.
  • Hamilton: It’s evident that Ms. Hamilton is a debut writer/director. No, the film wasn’t atrocious, but it’s clear that it wasn’t in the hands of a seasoned director. The writing, in particular, was sluggishly paced,  and there appeared to be a number of scenes the film could’ve done without given that they didn’t necessarily enhance the story in any way.

The Good/Bad:

  • Nothing Special: In truth, there’s nothing strikingly memorable about this film. There’s a handful of good and a handful of bad – nothing to write home about either way. In my opinion, these types of films are among the worst. If a movie is painfully horrendous, at least you can mock it/bitch about it, right?


Save this one for the DVD player.

Rating: 5/10

The film opens nationwide Friday, December 3rd.