From: Silver Screen

REVIEW: Liam Neeson returns for his yearly action-thriller in ‘Blacklight’

REVIEW: Liam Neeson returns for his yearly action-thriller in ‘Blacklight’

Liam Neeson has been a star of action movies for almost two decades. Maybe it’s time to put his “very particular set of skills” to rest once and for all.

“Blacklight” is Neeson’s latest entry into his seemingly endless catalog of action-thrillers. Since “Taken” was released in 2008, Neeson has starred in at least one of these movies per year.

“Blacklight” is the story of Travis Block (Neeson), a fixer who works for the FBI to keep deep undercover agents in check. While grappling with ideas of retirement, Block attempts to mend his relationship with his daughter Amanda (Claire van der Boom) and be a more steady figure in the life of his granddaughter Natalie (Gabriella Sengos). Trouble arises when one of the FBI’s undercover agents, Dusty (Taylor John Smith), decides to go to the press and tell them about a conspiracy hidden deep within the government. This premise leads to one of the most predictable, by-the-book action-thrillers you’ll ever see. 

The plot isn’t bad per se; it hits all the right notes. The movie doesn’t drag either, clocking in at a tight hour and 48 minutes. However, the script fails miserably. As an audience member, you can see every twist and turn the screenwriters throw at you from a mile away. It’s hard to be engaged and invested in a story if you know exactly what’s going to happen, and even though this is just another Neeson action-thriller, you would hope the movie wouldn’t be this cliché.

One of the golden rules of scriptwriting is “show, don’t tell.” A good screenplay explains the action using visuals rather than excessive exposition. “Blacklight” rejects the former entirely. There are many scenes with two people sitting down solely to explain plot points to each other. This is the most insulting way to write a script. Audiences are savvy enough to piece together information for themselves. They do not need the plot spoon-fed to them word by word.

To be fair, those who want to see this movie probably aren’t anticipating great writing and visual storytelling — they likely want to see some good old-fashioned Neeson action. Unfortunately, the action scenes in “Blacklight” are lifeless, lacking style and character. Fight scenes are filled with more cuts than you can keep track of. The most egregious instance comes in a scene where a cut occurs every time a punch is thrown. The chase scenes both by car and on foot, desperately lack energy. Exciting action paired with engaging cinematography can elevate a movie. “Blacklight” has neither.

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

As for the star of this film, Neeson delivers a serviceable performance by refusing to phone it in. Regardless, as an actor who will be turning 70 in four months, he may be getting too old to be seen as a convincing threat. These movies may be an easy paycheck for him, but perhaps it's time for Neeson to retire from action movies and go back to his dramatic roots. 

The rest of the cast is serviceable, but no actor stands out in a film full of unrecognizable names. Some of the dialogue delivered in the film sounds a little unnatural, but the blame falls more on the script than the actors’ performance. This is the first film screenwriters Nick May and Brandon Reavis have written — and it shows. 

In the end, “Blacklight” is yet another forgettable Neeson action-thriller in a long line of forgettable Neeson action-thrillers. Unless you are his biggest fan, don’t spend your hard-earned money to see this movie. 

“Blacklight” will be released in theaters on Feb. 11. 

More from Silver Screen

Would you like to support our work? Donate here to The Eagle Innovation Fund.