Directed by: Mark Williams
Premise: A freelance government operative (Liam Neeson) works for the FBI, bringing in undercover agents who have become endangered or lost their way. He encounters a young FBI agent (Taylor John Smith) who has knowledge of an assassination program.
What Works: Actor Taylor John Smith plays the young FBI agent attempting to blow the whistle on the assassination program and Smith is the best part of the movie. His character is struck with a crisis of conscious and he attempts to atone for the wrongs he has committed. Smith credibly conveys paranoia and he demonstrates some promising action movie talent.
What Doesn’t: For well over a decade, Liam Neeson has repeatedly starred in action movies in which he plays a gun toting killer with a troubled family life. These pictures have varied widely in quality but Blacklight is among the worst titles in Neeson’s action movie oeuvre. The script makes no sense, the dialogue is execrable, the performances are mediocre at best, and the film is incompetently made. Blacklight opens with a congresswoman murdered in a hit and run. This ought to be national news but apparently the only person who cares is an ambitious up and coming reporter (Emmy Raver-Lampman). Her editor and the rest of the newspaper management don’t seem to care even when she has a lead exposing a conspiracy. The characters behave irrationally as an excuse for action set pieces; Taylor John Smith’s character hijacks a garbage truck and leads Neeson’s character on a high-speed pursuit but it’s not clear why Smith’s character is running or why Neeson’s character is chasing him. The rest of the movie consists of the characters discovering the conspiracy and acting in unbelievable ways. Neeson’s character keeps confronting his corrupt FBI boss, knowing full well what he’s up to, but not really doing anything even when the villain sends hitmen after him and threatens his family. The relationship between Neeson’s character and his daughter and granddaughter is so generic it might have been copied and pasted from any other Neeson action film. The film culminates in an anticlimactic finale that resolves nothing. The set pieces are poorly choreographed and lack excitement. That’s especially evident in a lethargic fight between Neeson and Smith’s characters in which the actors seem to take care not to hurt each other. The film includes some weird cinematic effects especially in the editing which occasionally features a strobe effect for no reason.
Disc extras: Featurettes.
Bottom Line: Blacklight is sloppily produced and lazily written. Liam Neeson’s other action films were not great cinema but they were efficient and entertaining. With Blacklight, Neeson is veering toward late career Bruce Willis territory.
Episode: #917 (September 11, 2022)