Credit: Ben King/Open Road Films
by Matt Lynch Featured Film Genre Views

Blacklight — Mark Williams

February 10, 2022

Blacklight is a low point in Neeson’s tough-guy thriller canon.

At some point in the latest Liam Neeson product Blacklight, our hero, a stoic FBI operator, informs another character that the Bureau is engaging in a secret program to assassinate civilians (nevermind why). “That’s messed up,” they reply. Indeed. But I’ll tell you what’s really messed up; it’s almost 70 minutes into this excruciating slog before Neeson gets into the giant safe in his apartment with all of his guns. Like, what are we even doing here?

Neeson plays Travis Block, a black-bag guy who does off-the-books work for the FBI, usually at the behest of shady director Robinson (Aidan Quinn, presumably doing a favor for his old Michael Collins co-star). When Block discovers that an old undercover protege of his (Taylor John Smith) has uncovered evidence that Robinson is heading up a program targeting civilians for murder, he teams up with intrepid reporter Mira Jones (Emily Raver-Lampman) to expose the situation, and also hopefully explain why this clandestine kill squad conspiracy apparently involves two henchmen and nobody else (other than this being a COVID shoot). Oh, and there’s also the usual Neeson movie junk about him trying to patch things up with his family.

All told, Blacklight is a shockingly boring film, and that’s when it’s not merely a carbon copy of every other Neeson tough-guy thriller. From the generic setup forward, there isn’t a single arresting image or clever bit of dialogue or exciting action gag. In fact, there’s barely any action to speak of, save for the final shootout. Worse, despite opening with the assassination of an AOC-like politician and spending so much expository time muttering about the secret killings of evil program Operation Unity, the film can’t be bothered to explain why or to what end such a program exists, much less reckon with the political ramifications of such a thing.

Writer-producer-director Mark Williams, who also helmed last year’s more acceptable Neeson vehicle Honest Thief, seems to have completely abdicated responsibility for making any decisions here. Everything is presented in the same cold, digital gray/blue, every scene is simple shot/reverse shot, every performance is robotic. Neeson in particular cannot be said to be even working for his paycheck here; in fact, this is so interchangeable from his other movies that it’s not impossible that he’s been digitally composited in here from those. This is dollar store discount bin stuff at best.