*. Woof! Do you remember the original run of Sneak Previews in the late 1970s when Spot the Wonder Dog would come bouncing onto the laps of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel to announce their picks for the Dog of the Week? I wonder where Spot is now? Doggy heaven, I guess. But if I could, I’d call him back to duty for Blacklight.
*. Once again — yes, one more time! — Liam Neeson is back as an aging (or, more properly, elderly) agent, a man with a particular set of skills who finds himself having to protect his family. In this case he’s Travis Block, an FBI agent who works “off-the-books” doing dirty jobs for his boss, Aidan Quinn. Alas, Quinn has an even more off-the-books operation going called Operation Unity. I don’t know what Operation Unity involves aside from killing people. As Quinn says at one point (and this is the level of the script): “Spilling a little blood is absolutely necessary to maintaining law and order.” Yeah, you know the type.
*. Neeson runs afoul of this Deep Dark State operation when a younger agent (Taylor John Smith) threatens to go to the press (represented by intrepid reporter Emmy Raver-Lampman, the film’s sole bright spot) and blow the whistle on these rogue Feds. Neeson finds out what’s going on and Quinn kidnaps his family and then tries to kill him when he won’t play ball.
*. That’s enough of the plot. If you’re hoping for a return to the glory days of ’70s paranoia classics like The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor, forget it. There is nothing new or suspenseful going on here. What’s worse though is that the action is so poorly done. There are a couple of car chases that are very boring. There’s a gun fight that is very boring. Neeson gets in a fistfight and it’s very boring. Because let’s face it, the guy is 70 years old and he’s just not going to be able to sell this stuff anymore. But I don’t think director Mark Williams has much of a hand shooting action anyway.
*. Many reviewers were quick to point out how closely Neeson’s career now seems to be tracking that of Bruce Willis. It’s not quite that bad yet, since while this feels like one of Willis’s bottom-of-the-barrel efforts from the same period it actually had a budget of over $40 million. Little of which shows up on screen. Or maybe it does if it all went to paying Neeson.
*. Set in Washington D.C. but filmed in Australia (Melbourne and Canberra). This may explain why the streets and the museum are so deserted. Seriously, I’d like to know when a museum has that few people in it because that’s when I’d like to visit.
*. Film authority and general bon vivant Eddie Harrison: “Blacklight isn’t his [Neeson’s} best or his worst, but will do to be doing on with.” That’s faint praise, but I think it still goes too far. As far as I can tell, Backlight really is Neeson’s worst movie, at least recently. Casting an eye over the ones I’ve made notes on, I would rate it as worse, and markedly worse, than Taken, Taken 2, Taken 3, Non-Stop, The Commuter, Cold Pursuit, The Marksman, and The Ice Road. In brief, this movie is junk, and unless Neeson really does need the money he’d better pull out of this career arc before things get any worse. Because they always can.
Haven’t seen this one, but recently watched Memory, where he’s a (guess what?) aging hitman but this time with alzheimers. Same ol’ same ol’, I wish he’d stop. He’s so much better than these. Or was.
This one was so lame. They literally had no new ideas at all, and the action was terrible. But if somebody’s lining up to pay you big money, or any money at all, to do work like this I guess you take it. It’s like Charles Bronson doing all those Death Wish movies into his 60s. And I guess 70 is the new 60.
Actors are like crack addicts. They’re up for anything if it means one more hit of being on the big screen 😦
Well some of them do manage to walk away. But I think it’s hard for most to give it up. I think of them more like professional athletes who want to stay in the game (and make the big money) long after they’re past their prime and they’re actually damaging their health.
As for Neeson taking this kind of role, I imagine it may be all that he’s being offered.
He should have invested in gold, that way his portfolio wouldn’t have tanked so bad and he wouldn’t have to take roles like this.
I’ve bailed on Memory, I’m over Neesoned for the moment. Passable is about as good as I could say about this, but nice to be quoted on such an august site. In what way do you imagine me a non vivant?
I wonder if I should bother with Memory. Two big down votes from you and Frags. I’ve seen it on the shelf at the library.
Bonny vivant. The kind that parties on yachts with ‘slebs.