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Blacklight
Image Courtesy of Briarcliff Entertainment

Film

Blacklight Delivers Another Tedious Liam Neeson Thriller

Liam Neeson stars in Blacklight, a familiar story of corruption and the man who finds himself questioning where his loyalties remain.

Blacklight: They’re gonna need more men…

Few films are as predictably bland as Liam Neeson’s latest action vehicle, Blacklight. A government conspiracy that has allowed corruption within its ranks to go unchallenged for decades and a journalist hellbent on uncovering the truth is just a taste of the uninspired screenplay that fails to rise above feeling like the pilot episode of a network drama. Directed by Mark Williams (best known as co-creator of Netflix’s Ozark), Blacklight never comes close to being interesting or entertaining, instead, settling for a few middling action beats in between and its leading man to carry it to its muted conclusion.

The best at what he does, Neeson stars as Travis Block – an FBI operative that helps bring undercover agents in before they sink too far into their new identities. Block himself is somewhat in search of a new identity as he wrestles with the absent parent he was to his daughter, and the present grandparent he wants to be – provided his job ever gives him a break. Paranoid and overly cautious, he’s very protective of his family and finding difficulty in breaking from his steadfast ways. 

Blacklight
Image Courtesy of Briarcliff Entertainment

It’s when undercover agent Dusty (Taylor John Smith) becomes determined to reveal government secrets to the press, Travis is called in to stop him at whatever cost, and his attempt to be a better grandparent is challenged by the responsibilities of his job. A nagging feeling that Dusty might not be as crazy as the director of the FBI, Gabriel Robinson (Aidan Quinn), seems to suggest that starts eating at Travis’s conscience. Now wrestling with the promise of a new start and the sneaking suspicion that everything he’s ever believed was wrong, Travis finds himself forced to confront his blindspots.

There are no shocking twists and turns to be found in Blacklight – a movie so decidedly safe that it can’t even be bothered to pretend something wild might happen. Instead, it’s a by-the-numbers conspiracy thriller that features a couple of chases and culminates in a set piece that is unbearably solid. It’s the kind of set-piece you might put early in a film to set the pace and prove Travis’s tactical expertise, but instead, it’s put at the end and isn’t good enough to hang your hat on. Direct-to-video films have sturdier setpieces than this and it’s beginning to feel like directors are throwing Neeson the same roles that Bruce Willis has been taking over the past couple of years.

Weirder still is Travis as a character. This grizzled man who is the best at what he does couldn’t possibly fathom that there is corruption in the FBI? Decades of experience and seeing so many agents have to get pulled out from being undercover, and he’s finally being confronted with a conscience? Perhaps a younger character would be more convincing, but the audience for Blacklight is very clearly anyone who loves watching Taken in the afternoon on cable in between naps.

Blacklight
Image Courtesy of Briarcliff Entertainment

The personal struggles of Travis Block are half-baked and interject a thriller that is occasionally not bad. It’s not great either, but by incorporating Emmy Raver-Lampman’s journalist character, Mira, there are some competent moments strewn throughout. Most of Blacklight’s appeal will be in Neeson’s presence, but it’s Raver-Lampman that feels like she’s doing more with the role given than anyone else. It’s all faint praise in a movie where everything feels haphazardly tied together with a boilerplate screenplay.

Weird directorial decisions are abundant in Blacklight right down to an annoyingly frequent stylistic flourish that makes the screen feel like it’s glitching out for a second. Obviously, it’s meant to evoke some sort of tension, but combined with the hokey score that feels like no one remembered to replace the temp tracks, it all adds up to a barely competent episode of a CBS drama. That this is the second collaboration with Neeson starring in a Williams-directed film (he also produced last year’s The Marksman which also starred Neeson) is baffling because this doesn’t feel like a director utilizing Neeson’s abilities in any meaningful way. Blacklight struggles to find anything unique to hinge itself upon, wasting its cast for a thriller that can’t muster up any thrills.

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Written By

Chris is a graduate of Communications from Simon Fraser University and resides in Victoria, British Columbia. Given a pint, he will talk for days about action films, video games, and the works of John Carpenter.

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