Take the Night has an interesting premise.
An old brother, not so subtly seething that his younger brother was named the head of the family business, concocts an unusual surprise for his brother’s birthday. He’s hired four guys to stage a kidnapping before bringing his younger brother to the office rooftop for a party he’ll never forget.
But someone forgot to read to the Yelp reviews…or check the LinkedIn references for this particular bunch of “kidnappers.” They’re the real deal and see this gig as the chance to make a fortune.
Director/Writer Seth McTigue also has the lead role as Chad, the head of the kidnappers. That might provide some insight as to why McTigue thinks the crooks are the more fascinating focus.
In fairness that’s not a terrible take. Films like Goodfellas, New Jack City, Set It Off, Ocean’s Eleven and Heat show a charismatic crook crew can easily carry a heist caper.
This is McTigue’s biggest misstep. His criminal crew just isn’t that interesting. Chad is the brooding type prone to extended sequences of just staring menacingly. His younger brother, Todd (Brenan Keel Cook) is a shiftless screwup more concerned with his social media likes than actually working.
Shannon (Shomari Love) has slightly more depth as a former basketball star whose career was derailed by an injury. Justin (Antonio Aaron) is the most sympathetic as he seems to be dealing with some long-term PTSD following his time in the military alongside Chad.
McTigue shows plenty of promise in staging the mood and tone of a crime thriller. Take the Night doesn’t look cheap and shows a high degree of polish for an independent film.
There are some moments of genuine tension. It’s not a fluke that McTigue establishes this dramatic mood so consistently. The issue is the film needs stronger cool down moments.
When he wasn’t tracking down the armed heist crew, Al Pacino’s Heat character was dealing with a crumbling marriage and a suicidal stepdaughter. McTigue has Shannon and Todd joke around with a convenience store owner or spout off about basketball. It makes them come off goofy and clownish in a film that otherwise keeps the dramatic intensity to 10.
The soundtrack also gets overwhelmed by the heavy tone. It’s either teasing big developments that don’t come or are simply underwhelming. Eventually the booming score starts to feel like crying wolf — everything is made out to be important so eventually nothing feels significant. McTigue doesn’t help this either with too many prolonged scenes of characters just staring in the distance.
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There’s also the bigger issue of the brothers’ subplot being more engaging. William (Roy Huang) wants to loosen his stuff younger brother, Robert (Sam Song Li) up.
McTigue needed to spend more time on the fracture of the brothers. Why was William passed over? What made Robert so focused he doesn’t seem to enjoy his life despite the opulence surrounding them? Why does neither brother have any friends to the point William has his taxed assistant Melissa (Grace Serrano) arrange the surprise party?
Early on, Shannon is so low on money he’s stealing food from his friends, yet McTigue explains this isn’t the first time the crew has pulled off a heist. And the others are shocked Chad wants to retire.
Justin’s PTSD also seemed like a subplot worth developing more than inconsequential moments with Chad and Todd. There’s some dots McTigue needed to connect cleaner to make the story hold up stronger.
Performances were OK. There wasn’t any standouts one way or the other, which is better than the cast being unwatchable.
The ending aspires to have this big Usual Suspects style payoff, but McTigue tips it off so early it almost felt like a red herring. It was more surprising that McTigue didn’t have another twist in store since the actual one is telegraphed so quickly.
Take the Night shows a filmmaker fine-tuning his craft, but he’s not quite there yet.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10