Back in 2008, Liam Neeson reinvented himself as an action star with the success of "Taken," a surprise hit that inspired in two sequels. The actor later confessed that he thought the first film was going to be a straight-to-video release.
The soon-to-be 70-year-old actor has been churning out a steady stream of action films since then, many of them not very memorable. His latest effort is "Blacklight," in which he plays Travis Block, a kind of fixer who helps get FBI agents out of life-threatening situations.
The film starts interestingly enough: There's the murder of a politician by mysterious forces, plus a big sequence that has an undercover female agent holed up in a trailer with a bunch of white supremacists try to get her, protected only by a couple of cops doing their best to keep the mob at bay. Neeson's character shows up to rescue her, but instead of just marching her out the back door, he feels the need to create a diversion by blowing up a whole bunch of nearby stuff. It's impressive, although it doesn't really make a lot of sense.
The film is directed by Mark Williams, who also helmed a previous Neeson film: "The Honest Thief" from 2020. Williams, who served as executive producer on 20 episodes of the hit series "Ozark," also wrote the "Blacklight" script, along with Nick May.
The story features a wide range of characters, most of whom are not well-developed. There's the operative's daughter and granddaughter, who are regularly being let down by Travis. We know that because he confesses with stilted lines like, "I know I screwed up -- on multiple occasions."
There's a female investigative reporter, played by Emily Raver-Lampman ("The Umbrella Academy"), who battles with her predictably hard-to-convince boss to expose a government conspiracy that she's trying to understand.
The story also features a surprisingly much-older-looking Aidan Quinn as Neeson's FBI boss and former Vietnam war buddy who his own agenda. Quinn is fairly effective at playing a bad guy, but it's hard to take anything seriously when Neeson is yelling at him with sudden, decibel-skyrocketing lines like, "When does it all end?"
The film has an overall sense of "seen it before." There's a scene in which Travis is inside a home that is being invaded by bad guys, and he uses a "Home Alone"-inspired series of boobytraps to deal with them.
Sadly, the movie seems to have missed good story opportunities. For example, Neeson's character is revealed to be obsessive-compulsive, but nothing is really done with it. The filmmakers didn't need to make this into an episode of "Monk," but there were some possibilities there.
In the end, "Blacklight" is a generic, by-the-numbers, very-predictable action movie with little originality and forgettable characters. This one really should have gone straight-to-video -- or way down the list at a streaming service.
1 out of 5 stars
In theaters Friday