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Film ● Review: Blacklight

Title: Blacklight

Director(s): Mark Williams

Screenwriter(s): Nick May & Mark Williams

Studio: Various

Released: 2022

Runtime: 1h 44m

Starring: Liam Neeson, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Aidan Quinn, Taylor John Smith, Claire van der Boom, Georgia Flood


My Verdict: Tries to be some sort of action-thriller but fails. Too many conveniences and inconsistencies. Can skip.


Blacklight

● Travis Block (Liam Neeson) works for his long-time friend and FBI Director Gabriel Robinson (Aidan Quinn) as an off-book fixer who helps recover/ex-fil undercover agents.


● The film begins with political activist or candidate Sofia Flores being murdered and FBI undercover agent Dusty Crane (Taylor John Smith) wanting to go rogue to expose its assassination program to journalist Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman). Block is not part of it so he is not sure if it’s true and, either way, is dragged into it.


● It’s not meant to be an intense action film but it’s not particularly intriguing for what is presumably some sort of thriller either.


● The plot does not rush into it, which is appreciated, at least initially. It spends a bit of time following Block trying to deal with Crane. But then it builds up to… not much. The chase scene with the garbage truck is not bad as a chase scene but just feels too forced in the context of this film.


Travis Block (Liam Neeson)
Travis Block (Liam Neeson)

● There are continuity issues as well. To mention one example: when Block is pursuing Crane, Block looks fine in one shot but in the next has blood on his face. It’s enough to be jarring.


● There are issues of convenience. For example, it’s not entirely clear if Flores is merely some activist or some sort of candidate. She doesn’t have security, which is understandable if she is not that significant. But she is presented as significant and then no one cares about her death. We don’t see protests or signs of public outrage.


● Block tries to maintain a relationship with his daughter Amanda (Claire van der Boom) and granddaughter Pearl (Georgia Flood). Amanda does not like his OCD tendencies as Pearl takes after him. Apart from some cheesiness at the end, it is mildly amusing and it’s good to see the writers not resort to having these two tied to a chair and locked up in a basement as hostages.


Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman)
Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman)

● The writers nonetheless do try to use these two for suspense. For example, Pearl tells Block that she has seen a stranger watching them. For a moment, it works. Is Pearl just paranoid or is she observant? Unfortunately, like quite a few other things, it’s not followed up. Also, when Block is late to school to pick up Pearl, no one is there. Yes, schools can be irresponsible but as if at least one staff isn’t there still.


● Regarding some of the elements, I am not sure if it is mere convenience or intended to be commentary or perhaps even a parody. The FBI targeting people is not new. But why is Flores targeted? For the few seconds we hear her speak, she could mean well or she could be left-leaning. If the latter, then why is the FBI targeting her? Jones tries to pursue the story but her boss is a dismissive retard who in effect considers everything a coincidence. He is the a-hole boss for the purposes of drama, which is fine, but is the film trying to excuse the media’s lack of true reporting because they supposedly have standards of not publishing clickbait? And by the way, Block has a lot of Bud Light in his fridge.


● Visually, it’s not bad. There are a few moments where the film editing is a bit off. The use of staccato cuts to highlight Block’s attention to detail is mostly well-executed. It’s not as nicely done as Tony Scott’s films but it’s not too stylized or overdone.


● Overall, one can see what the writers and director are trying to do but the plotting needs a lot of refinement. There are too many conveniences and inconsistencies (lack of follow-up). If the film is shown to me as a first-draft screenplay, I might be impressed but I wouldn’t film it. There is one main action sequence as part of the final act. It could be better but it’s not bad. Either way, since it isn’t particularly intriguing or written well, maybe it would be better to go for the simple shoot ’em up.

 

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