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film review

Liam Neeson stars in Blacklight.Ben King/Courtesy of VVS

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Blacklight

Directed by Mark Williams

Written by Nick May

Starring Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn and Taylor John Smith

Classification PG; 108 minutes

Opens in theatres Feb. 11

Take it from an expert in Liam “Action Daddy” Neeson thrillers: You will walk away from the actor’s new movie Blacklight with many, many, many questions. The first one being: Can I please have my money and 107 minutes back? No, probably not. But to save you the trouble of speaking to the multiplex manager, here is a handy list of Blacklight FAQs.

Whose butt is Liam Neeson kicking this time?

Neeson does love finding a good tush to boot, from sex traffickers (Taken) to skyjackers (Non-Stop) to perhaps the actor’s greatest foe: melting ice (The Ice Road). Sadly, Blacklight’s villains are ultra-generic FBI agents, who are executing some nefarious plan targeting progressive U.S. civilians, including an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stand-in. The only man who can stop them and preserve American democracy? That’d be Neeson’s Travis Block, a black-ops fixer with a personality as exciting as his last name suggests.

Okay, but how much butt does Liam Neeson actually kick?

Depressingly little! Although Blacklight’s poster has an enticing come-on (“They’re Gonna Need More Men”), the 69-year-old Neeson gets physically involved in exactly three underwhelming set-pieces: The first being a downtown car chase, in which Neeson does little more than pretend to swerve a car while grunting; the second a bout of hand-to-hand combat that makes liberal use of stunt doubles; and the third a home-invasion face-off that’s so dull that you’ll pray Block gets fatally shot so the movie will end already. The worst part: The filmmakers of Blacklight absolutely definitely needed more men! There is one main bad guy here and a measly two henchmen, each of whose butts takes forever to finally meet Neeson’s loafers.

Blacklight is directed by Mark Williams and written by Nick May.Ben King/Courtesy of VVS

Who convinced Liam Neeson to make this movie?

That’d be Mark Williams, a producer and director who has previously coaxed Neeson to star in Honest Thief and The Marksman, two of the actor’s lesser Action Daddy movies. If director Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop, Unknown, Run All Night, The Commuter) is the Steven Spielberg of Neeson’s Action Daddy canon, then Williams is the genre’s Uwe Boll.

Whose local economy is Liam Neeson supporting?

As up-and-down as Neeson’s thrillers can be, he’s consistent in contributing to undervalued shooting locales. The Ice Road gave a boost to Manitoba’s economy, while The Grey brought Hollywood to Smithers, B.C. For Blacklight, Neeson made headlines in the Australian capital of Canberra, giving much-needed economic life during the height of the pandemic. Bonus: While researching the answer to this question, I discovered that Guy Pearce was briefly attached to Blacklight (presumably as the FBI honcho role eventually played by Aidan Quinn) before moving on. Good instinct, Guy Pearce.

Why is it called Blacklight?

No idea. “Blacklight” isn’t even a signal of aesthetic intent, given Williams’ cinematic style can be boiled down to one word: beige.

Is Liam Neeson … okay?

Your guess is as good as mine. Does Mark Williams have a kompromat on Neeson? Is Neeson simply bored? Is he sad that no one from Marvel Studios has given him a call? (Note to Kevin Feige: There’s no reason you can’t make a new version of Darkman with Neeson playing the grizzled, scarred mentor.) Much as I have enjoyed the actor’s embrace of scuzzy revenge-thrillers, he may have hit the point of diminishing returns. Put it this way: Blacklight is a movie that Bruce Willis would deem below his standards.