Violent Neeson action movie squanders early promise.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Blacklight is an action thriller about an FBI operative (Liam Neeson) who finds out about a secret, deadly operation within the bureau and tries to expose it. It starts promisingly but quickly gets tired and generic. Violence is strong but largely bloodless, with guns and shooting, deaths, explosions, car chases and crashes, minor bloody wounds, fighting, punching, kicking, and choking, villains being electrocuted, a neck-snapping sound, and some dialogue about violence toward women. Language includes a few uses of "s--t," plus "bitch," "a--hole," etc. Characters casually drink beer, wine, and whiskey either at home or with others. A character pops some pills and drinks from a flask. Sex isn't an issue.
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What's the Story?
In BLACKLIGHT, Travis Block (Liam Neeson) is a special behind-the-scenes operative for the FBI whose job is to protect undercover agents. He works directly for the bureau director, Gabriel Robinson (Aidan Quinn). After the mysterious death of a rising young progressive politician, Agent Dusty Crane (Taylor John Smith) tries to go to the press to tell the real story behind Robinson's activities, and, because it's his job, Travis tries to stop him. Dusty manages to speak briefly with reporter Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman) before he's mercilessly gunned down right in front of Travis' eyes. Travis starts to realize that something's wrong, and when his daughter and granddaughter suddenly disappear, he teams up with Mira to find the truth.
Is It Any Good?
There are hints that an earlier draft of the screenplay might once have had some cutting political commentary, but this action movie has been smoothed out so much that it's shopworn and generic. Directed by Mark Williams, who also made the more fleet-footed Honest Thief with Neeson, Blacklight begins with two promising sequences. In one, Travis must rescue an agent who's been stuck undercover in a community of racists; she has been found out, and an angry, gun-toting mob tries to storm her trailer. She tearfully tells Travis that the pressure just got to her, and she slipped up. It would have been interesting to learn more about this story, but we never hear from her again. Then we're treated to a speech by progressive politician Sofia Flores (Mel Jarnson) shaming the wealthy for hoarding and urging health care for all.
It's easy to guess that Flores is modeled after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and that she's considered a threat to the establishment. Unfortunately, she also disappears from the story quickly, and when she does, Blacklight simply becomes a series of tense dialogue exchanges (much of it expositional), shoot-outs, and chases, none of which feel very inspired or exciting. Mira is a reporter who doesn't seem interested in investigating or checking facts; she only wants to write her big story because "it's obvious." Even poor Neeson seems out of gas in this one. When he warns the villain, "you're gonna need more men," it doesn't pack half the punch of his best action-hero line deliveries. At the end, Travis is left to babysit his granddaughter -- which, frankly, might have made a more interesting movie than this one.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Blacklight's violence. How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect? Why is that important?
How is drinking portrayed? Is it glamorized? Are there consequences? Why is that important?
Do you consider Mira Jones a role model? Why, or why not?
Do the events of the movie parallel things that happened in real life? How?
What's the appeal of Liam Neeson as an action hero? How is he different from other movie action heroes?
- In theaters: February 11, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: May 3, 2022
- Cast: Liam Neeson, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Aidan Quinn
- Director: Mark Williams
- Studios: Open Road Films, Briarcliff Entertainment
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, action and language
- Last updated: February 24, 2023
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