An FBI black ops fixer (Liam Neeson) and reporter (Emmy Raver-Lampman) uncover a murderous conspiracy in Blacklight.
Blacklight is a tedious, deep state conspiracy actioner that misfires on all fronts. Liam Neeson, normally a sure bet for action junkies, looks lost in an obvious and melodramatic narrative. This time around he stars as an FBI black operations fixer who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The film also uses bizarre double-take edits that adds a confusing element to several chase scenes. I can’t fathom what stylistic approach the filmmakers were gunning for. They definitely do not achieve it.
Blacklight opens with a shocking scene that’s unfortunately the most entertaining part of the film. We are introduced to Travis Block (Liam Neeson) as he rescues a frazzled, deep-cover FBI agent. Block is congratulated for his efficiency by FBI Director Gabriel Robinson (Aiden Quinn). The men have been friends for decades. Block is Robinson’s tool for handling his clandestine problems. He has another urgent mission for his fixer. Another undercover agent, Dusty Crane (Taylor John Smith), seems to be having a mental breakdown.
Travis Block wants a stronger relationship with his daughter (Claire van der Bloom) and young granddaughter. She worries that his obsessive behavior and paranoia is affecting the child. Block’s efforts to bring in the rogue agent hit a stumbling block. Crane has reached out to a reporter, Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman), with a bombshell story. Block must choose between unquestioned duty or investigating if Crane’s awful allegations are true.
Blacklight has a lazy script that’s devoid of common sense. The film suffers from a major flaw that cripples the plot from the start. The antagonist is revealed early in the first act. We then have to watch as Block bumbles around trying to reveal an enemy that’s plain as day. This makes zero sense if Block is supposedly an elite operative. The same logic applies to the reporter. She has multiple encounters with Crane but somehow cannot put the pieces together. Mira Jones will not win a Pulitzer for investigative journalism.
Director Mark Williams previously worked with Liam Neeson on Honest Thief and as producer of The Marksman. I am surprised by the clunky and disjointed nature of this film. The family scenes are forced and awkward. The OCD subplot comes off as completely unnecessary. The gunplay and car chases are interrupted by the odd editing choices. My expectations for Blacklight were somewhat high. It’s hard to believe this star and filmmaker have an established history. They clearly take a step back with this effort.
Blacklight does not work as a pure action film. I want to be clear. The action is not terrible. You can see that ample money was spent on stunts, explosions, and numerous vehicle collisions. String all those scenes together and you have twenty minutes of runtime. That’s not enough to rescue Blacklight from a slew of puzzling errors. I’ll continue to watch every Liam Neeson film, but will quickly forget this one. Blacklight is produced by Zero Gravity Management, Footloose Productions, and Sina Studios. It will be released theatrically on February 11th from Briarcliff Entertainment and Open Road Films.
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