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Night Catches Us (2010)


Average Rating: 6.7/10
Reviews Counted: 51
Fresh: 42
Rotten: 9

Critics Consensus: A bold, original debut, Night Catches Us personalizes a tumultuous period in American history thanks to strong performances from Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington.

Average Rating: 6.4/10
Reviews Counted: 17
Fresh: 13
Rotten: 4

Critics Consensus: A bold, original debut, Night Catches Us personalizes a tumultuous period in American history thanks to strong performances from Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington.


Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 1,258


Movie Info

In 1976, after years of mysterious absence, Marcus (Anthony Mackie, "The Hurt Locker") returns to the Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age in the midst of the Black Power movement. While his arrival raises suspicion among his family and former neighbors, he finds acceptance from his old friend Patricia (Kerry Washington, "Ray," "Lift") and her daughter. However, Marcus quickly finds himself at odds with the organization he once embraced, whose members suspect he orchestrated the … More

R (for language, some sexuality and violence)
Drama , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
Tanya Hamilton
In Theaters:
Feb 1, 2011
Box Office:
Magnolia Picutres - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Night Catches Us

All Critics (52) | Top Critics (18) | Fresh (42) | Rotten (9) | DVD (1)

Tanya Hamilton directed her own script, and though her ending leaves loose ends dangling, the movie is refreshing for its seriousness and originality.

Full Review… | January 3, 2011
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Except for a stellar soundtrack by the Roots, there isn't much here to make anyone overly excited.

Full Review… | December 17, 2010
Washington Post
Top Critic

As a director, Hamilton makes Liv Ullmann look like an action movie director - and just for the record, Ullmann makes Ingmar Bergman look like Jerry Bruckheimer.

Full Review… | December 9, 2010
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Its rhythm forces audiences to pay attention to what its superb actors express non-verbally, and to measure the weight of the characters' past lives.

Full Review… | December 9, 2010
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

The film leads to no showy conclusion, no spectacular climax. It is about movement possible within the soul even in difficult times.

Full Review… | December 9, 2010
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Night Catches Us, a politically sophisticated and ethically serious film, makes no big speeches or obvious points.

Full Review… | December 3, 2010
New York Times
Top Critic

Despite some on-the-nose dialogue and a needless revelatory flourish toward the end, Hamilton gets at the strangeness of lived American history, in which violent ruptures leave behind poorly understood scars.

Full Review… | July 1, 2013
Film Comment Magazine

...Night Catches Us has a lived-in, almost languid feel, with artistic cinematography by David Tumblety capturing moments that are as perfectly framed as still photographs.

Full Review… | October 18, 2012

February 1, 2011 Writer-director Tanya Hamilton and two of today's most gifted actors have produced a sensitive drama with a powerful conclusion.

Full Review… | February 3, 2011

Tanya Hamilton's Night Catches Us, a snapshot of the post-Black Power movement era, suffers most from its structural deficiencies.

Full Review… | January 7, 2011
Film and Felt

Writer-director Tanya Hamilton has crafted an intriguing narrative even if she struggles to realize it onscreen.

Full Review… | January 7, 2011
Film Threat

Attempts to pry the lid off a painful chapter of American history that textbook writers and elected officials would rather erase or whitewash.

Full Review… | December 26, 2010
Goatdog's Movies

This is just another reminder there is a whole pool of acting talent in America, almost a whole film industry, that white audiences are largely unaware of.

Full Review… | December 23, 2010
Laramie Movie Scope

The real story here is the arrival of (director Tanya) Hamilton.

Full Review… | December 18, 2010

Washington and Mackie both deliver deeply-felt performances in roles that are all about nuance, particularly when the text sometimes fails them.

Full Review… | December 17, 2010

works in maddening shades of gray and pure, compelling lyricism to tell a tragic story about events that are neither right nor wrong, but somewhere in between

Full Review… | December 16, 2010
Killer Movie Reviews

An excellent achievement for its ability to weave so many complex themes and shades of gray with such poise.

Full Review… | December 10, 2010
Combustible Celluloid

Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington nearly rescue the piece but it just doesn't come together into anything memorable enough to recommend.

Full Review… | December 10, 2010

Sometimes [the film] wisely demonstrates that even in a volatile time and place, there's a time and place to take action. Other times it feels like a shorthand lesson for kids.

Full Review… | December 9, 2010

A poorly-paced, bland and underwhelming drama that can't be saved by its authentic production values nor by Washington and Mackie's strong performances.

Full Review… | December 3, 2010
NYC Movie Guru

The movie evokes its time and place so potently that it almost doesn't matter that Hamilton's script proves unequal to her vision.

Full Review… | December 3, 2010

Audience Reviews for Night Catches Us


Set in Philadelphia in 1976, this is a nicely low-key drama about a former Black Panther named Marcus who returns to his old neighborhood after years of absence to attend his father's funeral. His return is not looked upon fondly, primarily because it is widely believed he sold out a former comrade in arms, leading to pretty much everyone in the neighborhood hating him.

Instead of leaving after the funeral, Marcus tries to reconcile the past, primarily by reconnecting with the only person who treats him warmly- he widow of the man he is suspected of snitching on.

The film is, more than anything, a human drama about life choices and looking at the impact of the Black Power movement in broad strokes. When I first heard about this movie, I was under the impression that it was focused on the Movement and the Panthers, and that's what got me interested. That it is instead a more reflective look at that era is somewhat disappointing, but still interesting. Considering that there's really not a lot of cinema concerning Black Power, I guess this will do for the time being.

As a debut feature, this is rather competent. I think more justice could have been done to the subject, especially since this film skirts around the issues broadly, but it does have ambitions and isn't completely hollow, so that's good. It's not the acting showcase it could have been either, but the performances are still pretty decent, even if the base material is just a variation on stuff that we've seen many times before.

It's well shot, and gives a good glimpse into 70s Philly, so I think that those who dig movies that portray specific places at specific times will probably be happy here. As a nice treat, we also get a decent score from alternative hip-hop giants The Roots.

The film is flawed and not what it should be (in my mind), but it is entertaining, decently made, and does provide some substance to chew on, so give it a watch.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


It is Philadelphia in 1976. Marcus(Anthony Mackie), a former Black Panther, returns home for the first time in four years for his father's funeral. His brother Bostic(Tariq Trotter) has been left the family home and has already found a buyer while agreeing to let his brother stay for a week to repair the damage done by the contractors. Marcus may not have that much time considering that DoRight(Jamie Hector) considers him a snitch. But Patty(Kerry Washington), an old friend and community lawyer, is happy to see him, while she has to bail out her cousin Jimmy(Amari Cheatom) from jail.

"Night Catches Us" is a modest little drama, that while not striking out any new territory, still manages to tell an engaging story with the help of a good cast. Of special note, is how history repeats itself because of how it has been distorted in the first place. Marcus returns to a neighborhood that has hardly changed from the one he recalls where the police unceremoniously harass blacks, no matter the reason. That's why the Black Panthers came to prominence in the first place, as a self-defense and community organization meant to convey a force of strength, not violence, against oppressors.

Walter M.

Super Reviewer

A great debut. One of the best films of the year. Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington both deliver great performances, and the film has a great soundtrack by the Roots, aswell as a supporting performance by Tariq Trotter himself. Jamie Hector and Wendell Pierce of "The Wire" make up the rest of the supporting cast, and the rest are all newcomers.

Kyle S

Super Reviewer

Night Catches Us Quotes

Look, I'll only be here for a week. Then I'll be gone.
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
That's not who we were. That's not what we did.
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)

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