At this point, it is just a given that if you are related to Liam Neeson in a movie, you’re likely going to end up in a bad way. Most famously, the “Taken” movies saw his wife and kids get abducted and in “Cold Pursuit” his son was killed by drug dealers.
Neeson and he and his special set of skills are back with the release of “Blacklight,” a kidnapping flick that breathes the same air as the franchise that made him an action star.
The Irish actor plays Travis Block, an “off the books” FBI agent who fixes sticky situations by any means necessary. “Breaking and entering, physical coercion,” he says, “you name it, I’ve probably done it.”
He specializes in rescuing operatives whose covers have been blown but, late in his career, he develops doubts about his life’s work. He wants to be more involved with his granddaughter Natalie’s (Gabriella Sengos) upbringing than he was with his daughter Amanda (Claire van der Boom).
He’s serious about changing his ways, so when his granddaughter Natalie (Gabriella Sengos) asks, “Grandpa, are you a good guy?” he truthfully replies, “I want to be.”
His plan for being a retired grandpa, however, are kicked to the curb when an unstable deep cover agent (Taylor John Smith) goes rogue, and tells Block about a special FBI operation that targets and kills innocent U.S. citizens under the guise of protecting democracy.
“One day you wake up,” he says, “and realize you’re not sure who the good guys are anymore.”
Journalist Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman), who has been sniffing around the story for some time, fills him in on the details, including a link between the conspiracy and FBI director Gabriel Robinson (Aidan Quinn). “How many have to die for you to look the other way?” she asks.
Looking the other way isn’t an option when Block’s daughter and granddaughter go missing. He suspects Robinson had something to do with their disappearance and vows to do something about it. “If I find out you had anything to do with my granddaughter going missing,” he warns the FBI head honcho, “you’re going to need more men.”
And the plot, such that it is, thickens.
With none of the fun Eurotrash panache of “Taken,” too many movie-of-the-week characters and a plot with all the suspense of a Tim Horton’s commercial, “Blacklist” doesn’t belong on the same shelf with Neeson’s best action flicks. Inert and stodgy, it never gets to lift-off.
Still, there is no denying Neeson’s screen presence. Even in cut rate fare like this he’s watchable. It’s just that he has visited this well too many times. Once again, he’s the tough guy cliché, a loner fighting against impossible odds, using his special set of skills to even scores and, in doing so, invites comparisons to other, better movies.