Review: Liam Neeson is Solid as Usual but BLACKLIGHT Offers Nothing New for Action Cinema

By: John M Jerva

In the last few weeks, we saw Tom Brady retire from the sport he loves as the GOAT and action icon Jean-Claude Van Damme has even mentioned that he is set to sail off after he makes one more action epic. Sticking around passed your expiration date is one thing I would think that people would like to try and avoid. Unfortunately, there are some in any profession that seem to try to stick it out even though that ship has sailed. It’s a sad fact in life that no one wants to get older, but we cannot stop father time as much as we try.

This leads me to my next review which is for Liam Neeson’s latest action offering called Blacklight. I actually saw the movie over the weekend, but I’ve had no energy at all to write a review and especially for a film as lackluster as this one. Now don’t get me wrong. Neeson is a great actor and can lift any movie above its mediocrity, but I think he’s gotten to that point where he should stick to dramatic fair. After all, didn’t he mention that he was retiring from making action movies like over two years ago? I digress, but if his future outputs are going to be anything like Blacklight, then I feel it is indeed time to hang up the gun.

In terms of plot, Blacklight sees Neeson starring as Travis Black who suffers from OCD which has put a dire strain on his relationship with his estranged daughter and granddaughter. Fortunately for Black however, his condition makes him really good at his job where he essentially fixes problems for the government. A “fixer” if you will who makes it his life’s work to pull undercover agents out of very bad situations. Black has reached that point in his life where he wants to spend more time on his family and leave his complicated job in the rearview mirror. Of course, this is an action movie, so Travis’ higher ups don’t really see eye to eye with him in that respect.

Things go awry per usual when one such agent conjures up a conspiracy theory which puts Black right in the crosshairs of the very people he’s working for. Does this all sound familiar? Well, it should because we’ve seen this all many, many times before. Now I don’t mind plots that are cliche as long as the other things they’re offering, like action, is a selling point. And with that, we have a movie starring a really good actor thrown into less than memorable situations.

Aidan Quinn, another fine actor, plays Gabriel Robinson who is Black’s longtime friend and boss. His scenes with Neeson are a standout and he works well off of Neeson but his character arc is one you can see coming a mile away. One that has an unsatisfactory conclusion. Like Neeson, it’s not Quinn’s fault as he does the best with what he’s given but I couldn’t get past all the holes in the plot and with the characters.

Now comes the part of the review where I talk about the action. Yes, if it was high-octane enough, I would have given this film a pass, but Blacklight is essentially an action-thriller with no real action and even less thrills. Yes, there are some moments that I thought would turn the movie around and Neeson does get to take on some henchmen but it’s all rather mundane with only a few minutes that really are worth talking about. There are some nifty hand to hand exchanges as well but once again, I wanted more and more with flair.

Also, when you have the film’s tagline as “They’re Gonna Need More Men,” I think you should actually hone up to it and send in more men for Neeson to take on. He even says the line in the movie, but I guess no one was really listening. The scene where Neeson takes out some bad ass operators is top notch but sadly, there isn’t much more of that and the finale is a real letdown for someone like me who’s seen a lot of these films.

I will say that the movie’s score is rather thrilling and that there is a distinct boom, boom percussion aspect to it that goes well with what is transpiring on screen. When the music adds a definite round of menace then you know you’re doing it right.

Overall, I’ve pretty much said what I wanted to about Blacklight. Liam Neeson is solid per the norm in it but his Taken days are long behind him. That’s not a bad thing but I think he should just focus more on the drama from here on out. Watch as I say this and then he delivers an awesome action pic down the road.

Aside from the performances, Blacklight doesn’t offer anything else in the genre and I can’t see myself seeking this one out to watch again. If you haven’t seen it yet, pass on it and wait for streaming as that is where this movie should be. There are a few moments of cool but all in all, this one will leave your brain as soon as the credits roll. Neeson definitely deserves better.

VERDICT: 2.5 Out of 5 Stars

Neeson is solid but it’s just too bad the rest of the movie isn’t.

Blacklight is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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