In "Night Catches Us," ex-Black Panther Marcus (Anthony Mackie, "The Hurt Locker") returns home to Philadelphia after the death of his reverend father. It's 1976.
Labeled a snitch by his former Panther brethren, Marcus finds solace in Patty (Kerry Washington, "The Last King of Scotland"), the widow of a Panther shot by police, who is now a lawyer with a young daughter, Iris (Jamara Griffin).
Marcus and Patty's budding love story is contrasted by Patty's disillusioned cousin, Jimmy (Amari Cheatom), who idolizes the Panthers but has no role models to guide him.
It's either a testament to David Tumblety's cinematography or a knock to Philly that the city looks gray and gritty, perfect for the '70s milieu of locally-based writer-director Tanya Hamilton's film. Like other movies of the period, Hamilton allows shots to linger and characters to breathe, which doesn't make for the most exciting cinematic experience, but is a welcome respite to current rat-a-tat filmmaking.
Enlivening the proceedings is Hamilton's use of Panther artist Emory Douglas' work and an animated sequence of Panther propaganda. She is also aided by the performances of her leads, who understand the strengths and weaknesses of their characters.