Writer-director Seth McTigue’s Take the Night features a paperback-potboiler premise with a lot of potential that feels untapped by the end of the story. Get this: Two rich sons are in conflict over who deserves control of Change Imports, a massive conglomerate left to them by their difficult father. William (Roy Huang) is the eldest, burned by the revelation that his father left the company to William’s much younger brother, Robert (Sam Song Li). So William does what any good rich man would do. He hires a quartet of criminals to fake-kidnap Robert as a prank. The ruse goes terribly wrong. Crime ensues.
McTigue dives deep into the personalities and motivations of everyone involved, meaning a lot of time is spent explaining why his kidnappers have ended up on the wrong side of the law. Shannon (Shomari Love), Justin (Antonio Aaron), Chad (McTigue) and Todd (Brennan Keel Cook) all have different forms of shattered dreams and unfaced trauma in their lives. Justin and Chad served in the military, for instance, and found nothing left for them back home. The additional characterization for the ostensible “villains” is appreciated, aided by good performances all around.
Unfortunately, it also means the film — which clocks in at about 80 minutes — is full of character to the detriment of tension. William, Robert, Shannon, Justin, Chad, and Todd, along with Robert’s secretary, Melissa (Grace Serrano), are all full-bodied characters with roles to play in the kidnapping and its ensuing fallout. The high concept only comes into play about halfway through the film, and everything after feels a little rushed and underdeveloped. To be fair to McTigue, that’s not an abnormal feature in pulp-crime storytelling — this is pretty much how I felt during my spring reading kick of Mickey Spillane — although even by the standard of the genre, I was left somewhat underwhelmed by Take the Night. The story needed one or two more show-stopping moments of crime or redemption to really stick.
All that aside, McTigue has done a pretty decent job playing within the confines of the genre in his debut feature. The film’s look is grimy and dark. It has the right tone and feeling even when the plot loses sight of itself. The ambition is on display, and if nothing else, it’s worth watching to see a new talent take flight.