For a guy who announced he was going to retire from action movies, Liam Neeson sure does make a lot of action movies.
“Blacklight” stars Neeson as an off-the-books FBI fixer who gets caught up in a government conspiracy. Mark Williams directs while Emmy Raver-Lampman, Taylor John Smith, and Aidan Quinn also star.
Liam Neeson seemingly puts out at least two movies a year, with this being his fifth release of the pandemic alone. “Blacklight” is just another standard shooter by Neeson and his long-time producer (and two-time director) Mark Williams, and despite a few nuggets of intrigue it will be forgotten as quickly as the last half-dozen Neeson vehicles.
To give Neeson credit, he doesn’t mail these roles in. Yes, every character he plays is the same (retired government guy who wasn’t the best dad gets a chance to redeem his soul), but he could easily sleepwalk through the motions. He tries his best to give audiences a committed-enough performance, and that is at the very least commendable.
It’s just a shame the rest of the film is just so bland. The plot plays out like “Shooter” and “All the President’s Men” had a baby and that child hit the snooze button; there isn’t a single surprise to be found here. It wants to be a conspiracy thriller, but takes far too long to get to the thrilling parts (the full extent of the story doesn’t even come into play for the first hour). There is a decent shootout near the end that is entertaining and semi-creative, but the rest of the action sequences are workmanlike at their best, and pretty shotty at their worst.
The film is shot in a very crisp and clean way, with Dutch camera angles to spare, but I don’t think that lends itself to a wannabe gritty action-thriller like this. There is just something about the film that combines the lens flares of a J.J. Abrams production with the stiff staging of a Hallmark movie, and it just makes for a very unengaging watch.
Shot in late-2020, it also tries to add some commentary about the current political landscape, including racist groups of neo-Confederates, “politically correct puppet progressives,” and its very own knockoff AOC. It will come off as pandering to some and annoyingly preaching to others, and by the halfway point these attempts to be relevant have no affect on the plot, begging the question why they were included in the first place.
I enjoy a handful of Liam Neeson’s films, but after the likes of “The Marksman” and “Honest Thief” this continues to trend of being more entertained by the film’s ludicrous moments and production shortcomings than its actual content. “Blacklight” is a movie you’ve seen done before and done better, and while I am happy for any and all content theaters can get right now, I can’t recommend you rush out and see it.
Critics Rating: 5/10