"Blacklight" stars Liam Neeson, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Taylor John Smith, Aidan Quinn, Claire van der Boom, Yael Stone, and Tim Draxl. Released on February 11, 2022, the film is about an FBI operative who discovers a government conspiracy.
The film was directed by Mark Williams, who also directed "A Family Man" and "Honest Thief". Don't you just hate it when the government you're working for goes against the laws of justice? Mr. Neeson does, and he's about to teach them a lesson. To the surprise of absolutely no one, we had another traditional action-thriller starring everyone's favorite butt-kicking star, Liam Neeson. The film marks the latest collaboration between Neeson and Mark Williams after working together on "Honest Thief" and last year's "The Marksman". These movies didn't offer much to their genre formulas, but they benefited from the actor's presence. Plus, they serve as solid counter-programming for their target audience. Now, they're looking to copy their success again with a film that pits Neeson against the corrupted government. With that in mind, let's see if this latest thriller has enough moments to make it watchable.
The story follows Travis Block (Neeson), a Vietnam War veteran who works as a fixer for the Director of the FBI, Gabriel Robinson (Quinn). He is tasked to bring in agents who are in unstable situations. Travis's latest assignment has him searching and bringing in Dusty Crane (Smith), who claims to have information on a person's death. That information is later revealed to be about a top-secret operation known as Project Unity, which involves killing innocent people, and the suspect behind it was Robinson himself. With the help of journalist Mira Jones (Raver-Lampman), Block sets out to uncover the conspiracy, protect his family, and expose Robinson's cruel misdeed.
I've been hesitant on whether or not I should watch it for quite some time. The main reason why is that it's been garnering some terrible reviews from critics, and it looks like it's not going to get any better ones anytime soon. But, of course, I happened to change my mind when I heard nothing but good responses from the people who walked out of the film. Unfortunately, I didn't find the right time to see it in the theater, but I was lucky enough to find that it's available to rent on demand for around 16 dollars. After experiencing it for myself, I immediately feel that it should've cost less than that. The good thing about this experience is that I didn't have to leave my home to watch it in the theater. But, sadly, it wasn't enough to overshadow how I feel towards this highly disappointing piece of Heroic Neeson cinema.
The film does have some interesting material for Mark Williams to work with, including an FBI conspiracy and the main character (Travis Block), who's suffering from some mental illness and attempting to leave his violent job behind. Plus, it has several elements that'll please a certain amount of fans of the actor's previous thrillers, mainly his performance. However, those things aren't always enough to take the film out of the FBI's most-wanted list. It needs to have a good story that's as thrilling as seeing Neeson shooting a gun. If it offers some absorbing commentary and good characters to go along with the action, that would also be enough to make for a late Friday-night movie. Unfortunately, "Blacklight" failed to accomplish that assignment.
The storyline is an underwhelming, by-the-numbers thriller featuring elements better portrayed in the other conspiracy-themed movies. Its approach in balancing dialogue-driven sequences with a few fight scenes is something that I didn't mind at first glance. However, it started to feel more like waiting at a DMV than driving a high-octane car. If you haven't stayed in line at a DMV before, don't. It's not fun. The film's screenplay by Nick May and Mark Williams offered little to no redeeming factors to make the character development more compelling, especially Travis. He's not unlikeable or anything like that. It's just that his character's quest to be a better man for his family wasn't convincing enough. I think they could've handled this dynamic a lot better by raising the stakes a bit more.
The performances from the cast weren't top-tier, but they're far from terrible. Liam Neeson is about as Liam Neeson as Liam Neeson could be regarding his performance as Travis, for better or worse. Like his previous roles as the action hero, there's nothing too special about him in "Blacklight" that'll keep him out of the depths of cheap mediocrity. But if you like the actor regardless, you should have no problem helping him expose the FBI. Emmy Raver-Lampman and Aidan Quinn were also all right in their roles as Mira Jones and Gabriel, respectively.
As for the action sequences, all I can say about them is that they're just "meh". They're not great, and they're not horrifically chaotic regarding the editing. They're just okay. Like how Williams handled the dialogue scenes, the filmmaker struggled to inject some energy and finesse into the riveting scenes, especially the gunfight near the end. Although, I will admit that it had some decent wide-angle shots during specific moments.
Overall, "Blacklight" is a faulty light that slowly grows more irritatingly dull by the minute. It delivers the elements Neeson fans usually expect from a mid-budget thriller involving the actor outsmarting the bad guys. However, the film proves that those elements, mainly Neeson's presence, don't always substitute for lousy storytelling. With its mediocre screenplay, a by-the-numbers plot, and bland action sequences, the film marks the lowest point for Liam Neeson and Mark Williams in terms of their collaborations. Despite me enjoying the actor for delivering his non-stop charisma for his fans, I'm convinced that if he continues to provide disappointing content like this, he'll soon become the next Bruce Willis before he retires. Let's hope that doesn't happen for our sake.