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Blacklight (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 15, 2023


Starring Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Taylor John Smith, Claire van der Boom, Yael Stone, Tim Draxl, Andrew Shaw, Zac Lemons, Gabriella Sengos, Georgia Flood, Caroline Brazier, Mel Jarnson, Sunny S. Walia, Kameron Hood, Anthony J. Sharp, Irene Chen, Joe Petruzzi, Rodney Miller, Jasper Bagg, Clara Helms and Damien Bodie.

Screenplay by Nick May and Mark Williams.

Directed by Mark Williams.

Distributed by Briarcliff Entertainment. 108 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Blacklight starts out looking like it is trying to be a cutting-edge political thriller. One character seems to be not-so-loosely based on Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and there is a segment where a group of Proud-Boy-esque toughs turn violent on some cops. Perhaps Blacklight will have something to say about the post-Trump political divide.

However, quickly enough it turns into a pretty standard issue espionage thriller. The AOC-type character is murdered in the opening sequence and the far-right toughs completely disappear from the storyline soon after their first appearance, never to be mentioned again. (Apologies if you feel those revelations are spoilers, but both of these things happen in the first 10 minutes of the film, so it wasn’t going to be much of a surprise.)

It turns into just another Liam Neeson adventure thriller – better than some, worse than others. However, if you’ve been paying attention to Neeson’s career in the past 10-15 years (which is getting harder, because the films are getting lower budget with each passing year) you know what you’re getting into. (It’s still hard to imagine Neeson was once a respected serious dramatic thespian in the likes of Schindler’s List, Rob Roy, Michael Collins, Gangs of New York and Kinsey.)

Interestingly, Neeson’s character of Travis Block is rather reminiscent of the role that originally switched Neeson into an action hero and changed the trajectory of his career – for better or worse. Like his character in Taken, block is a shadowy enforcer with a vague government job as a fixer and a set of very specific skills with which to handle trouble.

This story takes a jaundiced look at the FBI. Block is sort of an agent, but not really. He is a private contractor at the beck and call of the department head (Aidan Quinn), but he’s not officially on the books. He is brought in to rein in a former agent gone rogue whistleblower (Taylor John Smith) – who claims that the Bureau was involved in the killing of the representative and wants to tell his story to a local journalist (Emmy Raver-Lampman).

As Block tries to capture the guy and stop the story from spreading, he starts to realize that they guy may not be so crazy after all. This leads to a series of fist fights, gun fights and good old-fashioned car chases. The rot seems to be going higher than ever imagined. Will Block take stock of his life and allow the story to get out to the public?

He’s Liam Neeson. You’ve probably got a pretty good guess to the answer to that question.

Like I said above, it’s nothing you haven’t seen Neeson do before, and seen him do better. In fact Taken was a much more stylish and intriguing story. However, Blacklight has just enough intriguing side paths and ideas to save it from becoming the formulaic suspense drama that it appears to be headed for.

It’s probably not a movie worthy of going far out of your way seeking it out, but if you come up on it playing on cable or streaming, there are worse ways to spend your time.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: February 11, 2022.

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