The action movie equivalent of a budget microwave meal.
Thanks to the Taken franchise, Liam Neeson has become a late in the day action star, but while he is certainly very capable of playing a tough guy hero/antihero, a lot of the movies he has kicked ass in have been…well…ass!
And so it is with Blacklight, Leeson’s second collaboration with director Mark Williams after Honest Thief, another title that is the action movie equivalent of a budget microwave meal. And by that, I mean a badly made, mostly tasteless piece of junk with barely any redeeming value.
Here, Neeson stars as Travis Block, a freelancer for the FBI who extracts undercover agents when they find themselves in trouble. So far so good, despite that silly character name.
The prospect of Neeson using his special set of skills to rescue agents from perilous situations works better in the imagination than on film, however, as what we get is a generic thriller about shady goings-on in the FBI and Neeson’s attempts to uncover the corruption that lies within the bureau.
“In hindsight, I suspect I made a poor career choice,” says Block at one point and I can imagine Neeson echoing that sentiment when giving the line. The character he plays is a devoted father and grandfather, not unlike Bryan Mills, the ex-Secret Service Agent he portrayed in Taken. He also suffers from OCD, the screenwriter’s attempt to give him some kind of Achilles Heel, but the disorder rarely has a part to play within the overarching narrative of the plot.
These elements alone trigger deja vu and if Neeson had paid more attention to the script when he read it, he could have backed out from this disastrous movie early.
Still, you probably aren’t coming to this movie for originality. Chances are, you will be here for exciting car chases, bruising fight scenes, and exciting moments of derring-do. This is what the trailer promises at least and if you’re familiar with Neeson’s other action movie roles, you will be expecting more of the same. Unfortunately, you are going to be disappointed.
While there is one good chase scene involving a garbage truck (ironic, as this film is garbage), there is nothing else to get the pulse racing. Yes, there are hand-to-hand fight scenes and shootouts but they are boringly filmed with little-to-no imagination.
In terms of story, the film harkens back to conspiracy thrillers of the past. But while such films as Three Days of The Condor, The Manchurian Candidate, and the Bourne films were suspenseful and well-directed, this tired effort stumbles along with less tension than a broken YoYo. You will yawn at the predictability of it all as the film follows plot points you have seen before. Here is a brief summary:
- Block teams up with an investigative journalist to uncover the mystery behind the death of a whistleblower
- Block’s family members disappear
- Block discovers his old friend isn’t the trustworthy FBI agent he thought he was
Sound familiar? As audience members, we are well used to such story beats in the action thrillers we settle down to watch. But isn’t it about time we were treated with less contempt? Of course, if Blacklight had decent action scenes, at least one surprising plot twist, and cracking performances from its cast, the generic plotting could be forgiven.
Sadly, other than the garbage truck chase, it has nothing at all to recommend it. Simply put, this movie is awful, on par with the B-movie trash that Steven Seagal stars in 20 times each year.
It’s disappointing that this film is so bad as Neeson has starred in a few decent thrillers over the last few years. The first Taken film was pretty good, Cold Pursuit was highly entertaining, and Non-Stop was enjoyably trashy. But then he has starred in such films as The Marksman and the aforementioned Honest Thief, which weren’t at all worthy of his talents. He has several other movies on the way, two of which – Memory and Retribution – also seem to rely on his status as an ageing action hero. For all I know, they could be future classics but then again, they could be as bad as Blacklight and all of the other bad action movies that Neeson has starred in.
If you’re a Liam Neeson completist, you will want to see this film. You won’t be entertained but at least you will tame your own OCD if you have the urge to tick off every title on Neeson’s filmography. But if you’re somebody who enjoys a good thriller, especially one that has exciting stunt work and narrative surprises at every turn, you’re going to be disappointed.
Blacklight is one of the worst movies of recent times and is definitely Neeson’s weakest so far. Do yourself a favour and re-watch Taken or The Bourne Ultimatum instead.
Verdict - 1/10