This past weekend I went to the USC Homecoming game with a couple of the guys from school, and for a minute I couldn’t help but daydream about these days. Part of getting older is remembering how idealistic you were and how real life changes your perspective on things. I tell that anecdote because Night Catches Us gave me a similar feeling of ‘the good old days.’ This film along with Spike’s filming of A Huey P. Newton Story (which I saw a couple weeks ago, also good) are both great bookend stories about the end of the Black Panther Party.
Night Catches Us took me back not just because of the subject matter, but because of a what it is: an indie black film. My generation realizes now how good we had it as an audience growing up; we used to have a few of these every summer, but now it seems like these days we get a film like this, maybe once every couple years. Like the black films of the New Jack Swing era, this film is anchored by good performances by its leads. Anthony Mackie plays the good brotha with a little bit of an edge, in this film an ex-Panther who comes back to his old Philly neighborhood to mixed feelings. Kerry Washington brings her down to earth sexiness into the female lead as the sista who stayed behind and ‘may’ have feelings for Mackie’s character. Jamie Hector plays the heavy, but trust me it’s not Marlo. I don’t know what the brotha has planned career-wise, but I could easily see him having a Keith David like career. (If you don’t know Keith David by name, trust me, you know him. He’s been ‘That Brotha’ for over 20 years.)
Back to the film itself, the story of whether or not Anthony Mackie’s character is a snitch (which I won’t ruin) provides enough drama to keep this hour and a half film going. The local Panther leader was killed by the cops, Mackie left town right after the murder. When one of the locals sneers at him, “What did you do?”, Mackie’s response “I survived.” Man, that continues to be the story of intra-race relations in my humble opinion. But we’re just here to talk movies today people!
Long story short, if you have an interest in indie films, or black cinema, or the Black Panthers, I think this is a film you should see. I found it on my On-Demand in my cable box; I believe it’s also on ITunes, and it’s playing on the big screen in select cities (LA, New York and probably Philly or Oakland) starting the first week of December.
Until next time…