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Review: Blacklight

Mark Williams's Blacklight joins the ranks of forgettable Liam Neeson thrillers with its first two scenes alone. What follows isn't much better. The film opens with the assassination of a progressive politician. The scene is immediately followed by a scene where F.B.I. agent Travis Block (Neeson) saves an undercover agent from a backwoods trailer park where a white supremacist group has figured out who she is. At first, you think Blacklight is building a picture of political oppositions. However, it becomes clear as the movie goes on that the connection between these scenes and just about anything else in the film is tangential.

The main story here focuses on Block trying to convince an agent who has gone rogue, Dusty Crane (Taylor John Smith), to return to the F.B.I. Yes, the character is really named Dusty Crane. Willaims and co-writer Nick May give Block a key character trait. He is obsessive about safety, so much so that it is distancing his daughter Amanda (Claire van der Boom) and his granddaughter (Gabriella Sengos). What they fail to do is connect this trait to his actions. Block is paranoid about who may be surveilling his kin but has almost no interest in why Dusty defects. The effect of this is that Block comes off rather clueless. Sure, he has a special set of skills that make him tough but he isn't clever or curious here.

The screenplay's issues don't end there. The film largely ignores the shady government coverup at the center of the plot. Those opening scenes never play into anything else in the film. I found myself constantly wondering why things happen and what is motivating the characters.

Blacklight is helped by some very generic action scenes. The tagline of the film is "They're gonna need more men." This would seem to promise a showdown, all-out brawl that the film will build to. In reality, this means that Block needs to fight like six men instead of two. The film hardly has any action at all and instead violates an important rule of film, it tells us things instead of shows them. We get repetitive dialogue scene after repetitive dialogue scene instead of any memorable action. Even some of the lesser Taken rip-offs that Neeson has been churning out can deliver a solid action scene. Not Blacklight, it is about as forgettable of a film that I will hopefully see this year.



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