REVIEW: ‘Blacklight’ lacks entertainment value

It’s time to spin the “what will Liam Neeson’s action character be?” wheel! We’ve had mob enforcer, air marshal and former Marine in recent years.

And it looks like this time it’s FBI agent!

Travis Block (Liam Neeson) is an extraction expert for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. When an agent’s cover is blown and they’re put in danger, Block is who the FBI calls to help them get out. While he’s great at his job, though, his work experience has caused friction with his family, notably with his daughter Amanda (Claire van der Boom).

Recent attempts to make things right with his daughter and granddaughter are interrupted, though, by his latest job, which is to bring in a rogue agent, Dusty (Taylor John Smith). However, when Block learns the FBI is actually after Dusty because he wants to leak information about the agency’s wrongdoings, the veteran agent turns his attention to what the bureau is hiding.

Liam Neeson’s journey through the action/thriller genre has been a big mix of highs and lows. “Run All Night” from 2015 and 2019’s “Cold Pursuit” were examples of his action entries at their best. Where as 2014’s “Non-Stop” and 2021’s “The Marksman” have been lesser efforts. Unfortunately, “Blacklight” ends up on the latter section.

The problem isn’t exactly with Neeson, though. The issue is the movie is just exceptionally dull and dated. Despite inserting some newer political angles, this feels like something a couple of decades old. Not in a good way like a homage, more in a bad way, like the script was sitting around for a while.

As a result, it just becomes an experience where one watches Neeson’s character go through the typical motions for an hour and 45 minutes. Spying on somebody here, fighting a bad guy there, so on and so forth.

BLacklightblog
Courtesy Briarcliff Entertainment.

That inherently isn’t enough to sink an action movie, though. With the right action and fleshed out characters, a standard thriller where a conspiracy is broken can get the job done. Sadly, the film drops the ball in this department, too.

Outside of an alright chase sequence through the streets of Washington D.C., the action on screen is disappointing. This is especially true with the final set piece, with a forgettable shootout. There are few clever tricks Travis pulls to overcome his opponents and the picture lacks a any bombastic moments.

The group of characters featured, meanwhile, are woefully one dimensional. A journalist character, Mira (Emmy Raver-Lampman), and Dusty appear more as simple pieces to a puzzle rather than fully formed people.

Neeson himself even seems to be sort of sleepwalking through this one. Compared to some of his other action entries, he seems to phone it in a bit with “Blacklight.” It’s not as though he’s fully unconvincing, but the performance does lack an urgency and a level of charisma one would expect from this character.

“Blacklight” succeeds at little. The script is stale, the characters are shallow and the action doesn’t keep a person on the edge of their seat. Even as a short, consumable action picture, this one isn’t worth seeing. 1.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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