Blacklight has the kind of "let's get this done quickly so we can move onto the next one" feel of Clint Eastwood's most disposable ’90s films.

Film Review: Blacklight

Film Reviews

Director: Mark Williams

Footloose Productions
In Theaters: 02.11

It’s hardly a surprise to see Liam Neeson appearing in another generic action flick, but it’s alarming to see just how much worse they’re becoming. The only thing that works about Blacklight is the title, and only because it’s a metaphorical urine stain soaked into the motel bed sheet of Neeson’s career.

In Blacklight, Neeson plays Travis Block, an off-the-books government shadow agent, a “fixer” who deals with messy situations, including extracting FBI agents from deep-cover assignments gone bad. But a game-changing series of events is set in motion with the hit-and-run death of young, crusading politician Sofia Flores (Mel Jarnson, Mortal Kombat), who might as well be just called “Alexandretta Coassio-Ortez” for all of the subtlety that’s been put into Blacklight

Block is assigned to bring in supposedly unstable young agent Dusty Crane (Taylor John Smith, The Outpost), who is trying to leak sensitive information to a reporter, Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman, The Umbrella Academy). Block is loyal to FBI chief Robinson (Aidan Quinn) because they served in Vietnam and Michael Collins together, but everything about this smells fishy. As hidden secrets are on the verge being uncovered, Block questions everything he’s talked himself into believing about right and wrong.

Director Mark Williams (Honest Thief, A Family Man) isn’t exactly doing career-best work with Blacklight, and if you look at the films I just mentioned, that’s pretty sad. Blacklight was shot in 2020 under restrictive pandemic conditions, which partly explains why this lifeless affair feels so small scale and seems to have rarely more than three people on screen at a time, apart from extras in one or two exterior scenes. The script, by Nick May, is riddled with dialogue that is flat, phony and forced, and the story plays like a doodle that was never really fleshed out beyond basic notes.

This doesn’t excuse the total mess of the story or the one-on-one hand-to-hand combat that looks like the actors are just marking it for rehearsal because they thought they were shooting the real thing later. Neeson does try to buoy things with his trademark presence; there was a time when he was clearly having fun with these kinds of films, but it has long since passed. Quinn, paunchy and white haired, has never looked older in his life, but he’s a strong actor who could have made this role a lot more interesting if he’d been given anything to work with here. 

The rest of Blacklight’s myriad shortcomings might be more forgivable if there was any feeling of tension and suspense, but the dull tone and half-hearted feel of the action sequences make watching it a bit of a chore. Blacklight has the kind of “let’s get this done quickly so we can move onto the next one” feel of Clint Eastwood‘s most disposable ’90s films (Absolute Power), but the comparison to such snoozers is almost too complimentary. Neeson is hitting a new low, and it’s safe to say that there is nothing that you’ll find under Blacklight out of the ordinary or worth your time and effort. –Patrick Gibbs