Blacklight Review

PLOT: A freelance FBI fixer (Liam Neeson) discovers that the agency is carrying out political murders under the orders of the FBI director (Aidan Quinn). Marked for death by a freelance hit squad, he must now go underground to blow the lid off the conspiracy and save his endangered family.

REVIEW: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Liam Neeson is our era’s Charles Bronson. On the one hand, the success of Taken gave Neeson the superstardom that once eluded him, but it also trapped him in a never-ending series of B-action movies. Every once in a while, he puts out one that will blow your socks off (The Grey being one), but too many of them are assembly line programmers that wouldn’t even have passed muster at Cannon Films in the eighties. Blacklight, which reteams him with his Honest Thief director Mark Williams is his worst movie since…well… Honest Thief.

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Now, I don’t mean this as a dig at Williams. I liked a Gerard Butler drama he directed a few years back, A Family Man. He’s also one of the guys behind Ozark – he’s talented. But, Blacklight is a ludicrously cheap entry into Neeson’s cannon, with the erstwhile star getting close to scrapping the bottom of the barrel here. Neeson plays the same character he always plays – a grumpy loner with a “set of skills,” shadowy government connections and an estranged family he has to protect. Here he works for the FBI, but the film is so low-budget that the film’s villain, who’s supposed to be the bureau’s director, never has anyone to answer to or any agents guarding him. Instead, he has the same two or three thugs that go after Neeson over and over again. They came up with a decently high concept for this one, but they didn’t have the resources to pull it off, which is why Neeson’s movies these days are better when they’re contained, such as The Marksman (his best in years) or The Ice Road.

Here, he’s an anonymous fixer whose job is to extricate agents in danger, with him rescuing Orange Is the New Black star Yael Stone (in a small role) from a right-wing militia early on. Williams, who also has a writing credit, tries to make the movie topical to some extent, even name-checking COINTELPRO, an infamous, illegal FBI program run by J. Edgar Hoover in the sixties. It probably could have been a cool action flick or limited series, but it’s very small scale, with perhaps COVID to blame for the tiny cast of characters and a limited number of baddies.

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Neeson himself seems as game as ever in the action scenes, but it’s getting hard to believe him dispatching hulking, lightning-quick opponents half of his age. That said, Neeson’s lack of vanity is endearing, with him even losing a fight early on to a younger agent played by Taylor John Smith, who has a few of the movie’s best action scenes. At least there’s a bit more carnage here compared to the too low-key Honest Thief, but the ending resolves everything too neatly. It’s also too bad that Neeson/Quinn don’t have a solid punch-up at the end following their cool scrap in Unknown, but that might have been a little too silly considering he’s playing the head of the FBI this time. He’s ridiculously easy for Neeson to intercept and get to wherever he wants.

In the end, if you’re a Neeson completist, Blacklight is decent enough in that it’s at least competently made (as are all of Neeson’s movies). The thing is, it’s so lacklustre, dull and assembly-line that you wish all involved would go the extra mile to craft Neeson a classic action flick that can stand apart from the ones he seems to churn out every few months or so. It’s not too late!




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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.