Breaking News
More () »

'Blacklight' Review: Please stop doing these movies, Liam Neeson

Once an accomplished actor and action star, Liam Neeson now stars in direct-to-DVD garbage like this on a regular basis.
Credit: Blacklight
Liam Neeson stars as “Tom Carter” in director Mark Williams’ HONEST THIEF, an Open Road Films release. Credit : Open Road Films

ST. LOUIS — About 83 minutes into "Blacklight," the new Liam Neeson movie, things start to get good. Travis Block, an "off the book" government agent who finally realizes the government can't be trusted in his late 60's, blows up a bad guy's SUV with a grenade launcher. It's something the audience has been waiting for: Old Neeson rage unleashed.

Too bad it takes three quarters of the movie's glacier-paced running time to get there. At this point, the 69-year-old drama actor turned seasoned action star has plowed right through the long-in-the-tooth arena and directly into the careless fight enthusiast's final ride. After speaking with him ahead of this film's release today, one thing is for certain: Neeson still gets a kick out of doing these lone avenger roles--essentially unofficial "Taken" sequels. Only if the audience felt the same.

"Blacklight" director Mark Williams, known more for being a producer on "Ozark," reteams with Neeson for the second time, producing another C-grade thriller where the lead just goes around apologizing for his past while punching through his future. There's all the common threads. A fixer for the government who wants out so he can spend more time with his granddaughter; his best friend is also the head of the FBI (Aidan Quinn, where have you been?) who shouldn't be trusted; he wants to amend his past failures before getting out of the business once and for good. All of it is located in this movie.

Little of it is memorable, even for the fourth choice at your neighborhood Redbox. The score is stock music borrowed from sixty other action films, spliced together from Lorenzo Lamas's greatest hits and a couple Jean Claude Van Damme bangers. The direction, writing, and editing is what film students turn into their teachers, knowing the footage is being sent to its rightful death. The action sequences do feature the realistic Neeson aesthetics-lots of fisticuffs, little kicking or biting-and all handled with the ease of an old lion who still walks like a man 20 years younger.

But gone are even the subliminal pleasures of a flawed yet relentless delight like "Run All Night," one of the few surprisingly solid releases after 2008's "Taken" explosion. Neeson may be able to lift up even the most idiotic and overused dialogue, but he looks bored. The man needs a good script or Quentin Tarantino to come to his career rescue.

Credit: Open Road Films/Briarcliff Entertainment

Everyone with a cinematic brain knows that these genre cookout burgers represent as much escapism for Neeson as they do the viewer; he started doing these after his wife Natasha's untimely death. All a film detective like me can ask is that he gets more picky with his scripts and who he works with, because his work with Williams so far makes his film journey with Jaume Collet-Serra look like Tony Scott and Denzel Washington variety (a much higher level, for the record).

The truth is "Taken" was great-looking fast food cinema fare. It was enjoyable, fast, and seemingly fresh. Remember, that was six years before the "John Wick" genre reckoning. The Keanu Reeves breakout spelled the end for old fashioned and disposable yet easy-to-please offerings like the majority of Neeson's recent roles on IMDB. "Blacklight" simply shows just how far those once pleasing offerings have dropped.

Skip this one and watch "Next of Kin" instead.

Before You Leave, Check This Out