We may well have reached peak Liam Neeson; I make Mark Williams’ thriller to be the fourth movie from the Irish star to land in the last year. And if Honest Thief, The Ice Road and The Marksman weren’t enough, Blacklight is here to provide a fix of the straight-up rough-and tumble action with which Neeson has created his own brand. Like Charles Bronson, Neeson has become an unlikely action hero; Blacklight isn’t his best or his worst, but will do to be doing on with.
‘They’re going to need more men,’ says Blacklight’s poster, and that’s usually the case when it comes to Neeson; no man is a match for him, even when the star is pushing 70 years old. Neeson plays Travis Block, a fixer for the Feds who really just wants to spend more time with his grand-daughter, but director of the FBI Gabriel Robinson (Neeson’s costar from The Mission and Unknown, Aidan Quinn) has other ideas. Robinson has just organised a hit on political idealist Sofia Flores (Melanie Jarnson), but when a whistle-blower alerts Block to the conspiracy, he’s got little option than to get his own hands dirty.
Blacklight starts promisingly, casting Block against a mob of rednecks who have a fellow agent trapped in a trailer-park, but it’s as close as the film gets to any kind of recognisable political reality. Neeson’s films have walked a fine line between pre-Trump Republican and Democrat sentiments, but Blacklight snaps back to the kind of cartoonish conspiracy that was out-dated by the 70’s. It doesn’t help that the production shot in Australia, which really doesn’t match up for the supposed Washington DC locations, and that adds an air of unreality to proceedings. It also doesn’t compute at all that Block wouldn’t be versed in modern conspiracy theories; it seems like a major shock to him that his bosses could possibly be corrupt in any way.
Blacklight has taken a panning from critics, and turns up in the UK on Sky, but it’s a more watchable prospect than it might first appear. Hamilton star Emmy Raver-Lampman makes an impression as a journalist who gets wind of Robinson’s nefarious doings, and there’s a couple of cheerfully destructive car-chases, one of which involves Neeson’s muscle-car giving chase to a bin lorry. Blacklight fans the flames of Neeson’s legend, and that’s just enough gas to get it over the finish line. Critics carp, but audiences still seem to have an appetite for this kind of route-one action.