Take the Night, the feature film debut from writer/director/actor Seth McTigue opens with crosscut shots of a gang donning masks and preparing for a job and Robert Chang (Sami Li, American Carnage, Women Is Losers) the new CEO of Chang Imports working late. Opera plays on the film’s soundtrack, right up until the gang grabs Robert in the parking garage.
But this isn’t your typical kidnapping. It’s been organized by his brother William (Roy Huang, 12 Rounds, Last Three Days). He feels that as the eldest he should have been made CEO, and he’s holding a grudge. So, as a prank for Robert’s birthday, he arranges a phony kidnapping. But what he doesn’t realize is that the men he’s hired, Chad (Seth McTigue), his brother Todd (Brennan Keel Cook, Scumbag, Encounter) and their friends Shannon (Shomari Love, Pinch, Payback) and Justin (Antonio Aaron, All Out Dysfunktion!, Diminuendo) aren’t planning on faking it.
McTigue brings the script back a few days to show us the lead-up to the kidnapping and almost immediately starts revealing a similar dynamic in the dysfunctional relationship between the two sets of brothers. One serious and businesslike, the other immature. Both have issues over their relationships with their deceased father. And both sets live together, one in a mansion, one in a rundown house in a bad neighbourhood.
We also get a bit of backstory on the film’s other three characters. Shannon was on his way to the NBA before an injury ended his dreams. Justin served with Chad and now is silent to the point of being mute. Lastly, there’s Robert’s secretary Melissa (Grace Serrano, Thou Shalt Not Kill) who has a young son back in Mexico that she can’t afford to bring to the US.
All of this starts to come into play around the thirty-minute mark when Take the Night catches up to its opening. From here the film switches into thriller mode as everyone’s plans start to fall apart and hidden agendas are revealed. And it is a thriller that leans on drama and suspense rather than action. We don’t even see more than a few seconds of the kidnapping in the opening scenes, that’s held back until later. Beyond that, there are just a couple of chase scenes.
Instead, Take the Night draws on the characters and their personalities and their ambitions as well as their flaws to create the film’s tensions. But much of the time the film seems less concerned with that than it is with exploring the lives of its leads. Even the film’s resolutions focus on emotions rather than action.
It’s a risky approach to take and there were moments when I wished Take the Night focused more on the criminal side of its plot than the human side. And I can see some viewers feeling cheated by the lack of thrills, I’ve felt that way about more than one film. But here I felt McTigue delivered just enough in that department to make it work. He also ties the two sides together nicely as we see how the two feed off of each other in both the rich and the poor.
Yes, he makes some rookie mistakes and misses a few opportunities to take the film to the next level, but Take the Night is a solid first feature made from a script that was tricky to pull off. It’s made even more impressive by the number of behind-the-scenes roles McTigue plays. He’s helped by a talented cast and an effective score by Jonas Wikstrand (The Evil Next Door, Revealer). Cinematographer Rainer Lipski does a good job of capturing moody night shots of Los Angeles and passing them off as New York.