Roy Huang and Sam Song Li in Take the Night

Film review: Take the Night

by / Aug. 18, 2022 9pm EST

The debut feature of writer-director Seth McTigue is a vividly photographed, intensely scored and sincerely acted caper drama with one problem: it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The story revolves around two pairs of brothers on opposite sides of the law. The brothers Chang, Robert (Sami Li) and William (Roy Huang) are the heirs of the recently deceased head of a global import business. Always the favorite, the younger Robert was named CEO, to the chagrin of his elder sibling.

Across the tracks, Chad (McTique) is a war veteran struggling with PTSD and unresolved father issues, exacerbated by his carefree younger brother Todd (Brennan Keel Cook).

Chad runs a criminal quartet with his brother and two friends. Their latest job: stage a fake kidnapping of Robert Chang and deliver him to a surprise party for his 25th birthday.

Their employer is William, who we are supposed to believe regards this as a prank that will loosen up his overly serious brother during a stressful period as he tries to assume leadership of a 100 year old business. The fact that William shows no sign of having any sense of humor, and is perpetually resentful of Robert getting the job he felt he deserved, leads us to suspect otherwise. That suspicion is reinforced when the gang turns the supposedly fake kidnapping into a real one, robbing the Chang family safe of a fortune in Bitcoin.

It’s next to impossible to describe the plot of Take the Night without spoilers. The problem is worsened both by the plot’s overwrought red herrings and undeveloped denouement. I tried watching it twice to see if it made more sense the second time. It did, a bit, but only because I knew where it was going. And more careful attention only made various weaknesses jump out: why doesn’t the Chang family have any bodyguards? What could the often-displayed newspaper headline “Chang Import Lost at Sea” possibly mean? What’s with the Bonsai tree that appears to mean a great deal to two characters? What does the title mean?

There’s an old adage that if something looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Take the Night sure looks and acts like a slick crime drama, and that may be enough for some audiences. The rest of us can only hope that next time McTigue works with a co-writer around to help him over the rough spots: there’s enough talent on display here to make it clear he has a future in films.