Review: Blacklight

Score:  C

Director:  Mark Williams

Cast:  Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Taylor John Smith, Emmy Raver-Lampman

Running Time:  108 Minutes

Rated:  PG-13

"I thought it was your job to get me out of this kind of situation."

In 2008 Liam Neeson's career altered dramatically after the unexpected success of Pierre Morel's Taken. That film, along with performances in The Next Three DaysThe GreyUnknown, and Non-Stop, solidified the actor as one of the more consistent and bankable stars in the genre. Though his production has ramped up over the last few years, it has been to diminishing returns as the quality has struggled. Although Mark Williams' Blacklight proves worthy of Neeson's attention, it is far removed from the level we've come to expect from the actor.

Neeson stars as Travis Block, a government operative trying to leave his post to spend more time with his granddaughter, who has unfortunately inherited his eye for safety and security. Typically in good with his boss, he feels confident a clean break is possible. But when he learns his new assignment believes the government to be targeting U.S. citizens, he begins to ask the wrong questions, leading to answers he never wanted to know.

Though it takes some time to understand what Block does, we quickly learn his new target is Dusty Crane (Taylor John Smith), a former undercover agent who is said to have turned on the government. Block, a no-questions employee, seeks out the young man, tracking him down with ease when Dusty unleashes his fist on four law enforcement officers.

Director Mark Williams works hard to integrate two storylines, work and family, as Block struggles to transition into the life of a full-time grandfather. The blend, understandable from a character standpoint, forces the film to slow down, keeping it centered as it rarely veers outside the expected. Though it highlights the danger associated with Block's work and grounds him to a level viewers can relate to, it hinders our understanding of his ability. His humane qualities downplay his onscreen tactics. His vulnerability, albeit interesting, makes us question why he is so special. Why is he Robinson's go-to guy?

When Dusty reaches out to journalist Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman) to tell his story, the plot thickens to an unfortunate level of predictability. Granted, Neeson is well-versed in this space; his films are often criticized for being eerily similar. Although Blacklight isn't an exact reproduction of a prior Neeson project, one can't deny the familiarity the film presents.

That is, in part, what prevents Blacklight from reaching its full potential. Sufficient in many ways, the film struggles to meld the pieces, giving audiences a disjointed, systematic story that wastes a tremendous amount of possibility. Combine that with one-dimensional dialogue, overly choreographed and slow chase sequences, and a cinematographer who struggles to capture the daytime light adequately, and Blacklight boasts an assortment of issues that are, quite frankly, inexcusable.

During the third act, when Neeson embraces his moment, and the story focuses on the film's primary driving force, we get a sense of what could have been. When Block thwarts a pair of assassins and initiates a shootout in his boss' home, adrenaline begins to formulate, piquing our interest as we watch one of Hollywood's biggest heroes kick some serious ass. It's why we showed up. And Neeson delivers handsomely. It's just puzzling why it took almost the entire film to get us there.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.