Story of Blacklight
In BLACKLIGHT, Travis Block (Liam Neeson) is a special behind-the-scenes operative for the FBI who protects undercover agents. He works directly for the director of the FBI, Gabriel Robinson (Aidan Quinn). Agent Dusty Crane (Taylor John Smith) attempts to go to the press to expose Robinson’s actions after the mysterious death of a rising young progressive politician, and because it is his duty, Travis tries to stop him. Dusty is able to convey a few words with Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman) before being shot down in front of Travis’ eyes. Travis becomes suspicious and, upon discovering that his daughter and granddaughter have vanished, he joins forces with Mira to uncover the truth.
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Blacklight – Movie review
Not only is Mark Williams attempting to make a career out of directing action thrillers with actor Liam Neeson’s (starting with 2020’s Honest Thief, while also serving as a producer on many that have gone before), but he’s also intent on depicting morally gray characters. It’s right in the name of their debut director/star collaboration, Blacklight, but the pair appears ready to double down on such character flaws for this sequel. The drawback is that the heroes are sometimes bland, as in this case, and there isn’t much of a difference between them. In fact, throughout part of the first act, it appears that Liam Neeson is a straight-up bad guy while the real hero will be a whistleblower trying to expose FBI director Gabriel Robinson’s (Aidan Quinn) secret operation, which involves murdering prominent people to maintain political power behind the facade of democracy.
To put it another way, the protagonist Liam Neeson’s Travis Block is unaware of Gabriel’s more heinous activities. However, he works as an off-the-books fixer (extortion, blackmail, and other things, but never murder) for covert agents who become mentally unhinged or stray from his strategy. Travis is unconcerned with the ethical ramifications of his actions, only wanting to make a living in the wake of a terrible, dark history and spend time with his grandchild Natalie (Gabriella Sengos) whenever his grown daughter Amanda (Claire van der Boom) allows, which isn’t much given their hostile relationship and Travis’ paranoia of danger and being watched. He has also shown tendencies to encourage his daughter’s play and provide a happy environment for her, as well as displaying signs of wanting to keep her close, but this may be due more to the fact that he is away from her life and things are not going well for him (whether it be teaching her how to count the number of exits in every environment, encouraging gun usage, or purchasing her a taser for her birthday).
The good news (for the sake of Natalie’s mental health, though it may already be too late) is that Travis is so preoccupied with work that he rarely has time to see his granddaughter, forgetting about obligations (you know, the usual clichés). Occasionally, he balances both jobs, such as when he repairs undercover agent Dusty Crane (Taylor John Smith), who winds up handcuffed inside her car while collecting Natalie from school. Unsurprisingly, Dusty escapes and might be trying to do the right thing by appealing to a journalist.
Dusty’s argument is that the system has failed and it’s time to fix it. But Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman) has a gut feeling that Dusty should be trusted and heard out, contrasting with Travis’ job as well as the entire house of cards Gabriel has built. During the film’s prologue, an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-style politician is murdered in a hit-and-run by two men driving BMWs. While there is much to unpack in this passage, the movie focuses mostly on how British intelligence uses misinformation to neutralize threats. Instead of trying to show how this government manipulates fear into the eyes of anyone who fights for justice, it’s merely dropped until it’s time for a convenient plot twist. It’s all window-dressing for the typical ordinary car chases and shootouts (which are quite poor and seldom amusing).
More egregious than this is that, even though Travis is shown engaging in some reprehensible conduct early on (he digs up personal information about Mira’s past for threatening reasons), Blacklight (which Mark Williams also has a story credit for alongside Nick May and Brandon Reavis, with the former writing the screenplay) skips over other potential heroes in order to have Liam Neeson save the day while extolling the virtues of guns and self-defense. This is also in conflict with his real-life beliefs, which he appears to be okay sacrificing for a check in a similar generic thriller.
Yes, Liam Neeson has given a second wind to his acting career by relying on the rush of a shootout. Still, Blacklight is the most anti-gun and fear-mongering propaganda leaning among them. It’s a comedy in which Travis jokes about teaching Natalie about firearms and explosives before getting shot (and killed). The actions of the FBI director are as inexcusable as ever.
Nick May, Mark Williams, Brandon Reavis
Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Taylor John Smith, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Claire van der Boom