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This movie reunites Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington who previously starred together in Spike Lee's 2004 film 'She Hate Me.' See more »
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Strong, sensitive, honest feeling slice of African-American life 1976
Night Catches Us (2010)
A really fascinating look at an African-American reality in Philadelphia in 1976. The plot hook is more sensational than the movie itselfa former Black Panther returning home has to adjust to regular life and accusations of tattling. What really grips you, though, is the "regular life" part, because the acting and direction make this all feel honest and revealing. A slice of life done well.
If the core of the movie is how Blacks of different attitudes and philosophies learn to get along (and not get along) with each other, there is also the more expected acrimony between the Black community and the mostly White cops patrolling it. It's hard to know how accurate this part is, because here we are shown clichés of some very dumb and mean and hardheaded white cops, and maybe that was the norm. I'd like to think that some other movies have it right when there are those bad eggs on the force, but that many make an effort to get along and be reasonable with the people they are protecting.
But maybe one message of the movie taken whole is just how different it was back then, in the shadow of the truly radical and violent 1960s, as the Muslim influence was rising, as power was promising to shift more evenly between groups but was lurching too slowly. Maybe it was just filled with such distrust it led to caricatures for real. There are several segments of archival footage of Panthers and other protesting, and the gritty roughness of those scenes reveals some kind of glossing over of the situation for this fictional version made 35 years later.
The leading actor, Anthony Mackie, and leading actress, Kerry Washington, are both likable and excellent. You might say too likable and excellentthere is a modern feel to their demeanors that's hard to put your finger on. But they're both a joy to watch act and interact. The intentions are low key, and the result is easy going despite the tensions around them. It's a love story after all! Writer and director Tanya Hamilton is making her first feature film here, and she makes the most of her modest intentions.
As a commentary on race relations it is nearly the opposite of Spike Lee's approaches in their highly produced flair. And whatever the limitations of the film and its script, it has the net gain of a feeling of sincerity. Which goes a long way.
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