With Backlight Northern Ireland icon Liam Neeson again finds solace in what has made him a bankable action str since Taken. Even in the twilight of middle-age as he reunites with Honest Thief director and producer Mark Williams.
The film, co-staring Michael Collins and Unknown character actor Aidan Quinn as an unctuous J. Edgar Hoover type, doesn’t have aspirations of a cunning conspiracy thriller in a world consumed more and more by social media.
Let the chases, confrontations and shoot-outs ensue for Neeson’s FBI freelance fixer Travis Block who gets undercover personnel out of sticky situations. The opening demonstrates another of special skill set the the popular actor has shown on many occasions in here who calls to mind last year’s Capitol riot with an irate supremacist throng on view.
The intertwining of the cautionary of exposing truth with hardened retribution isn’t very propulsive when the plot pivots on an agent (Taylor John Smith) impelled to act against very shady machinations, It puts an evasive convert operative in Block in cahoots with a driven reporter (Emmy Raver-Lampan of the upcoming Dog) and inevitably in turmoil with his boss Quinn’s Gabe Robinson. As the latter and Block share a harrowing Vietnam War past as the fugitive, logistical ‘Operation Unity’ becomes more prevalent in what is grovelingly generic.
Under the serviceable yet hardly inspiring direction from co-scenarist Williams, Neeson generates a certain low-key sincerity with a role he would reluctantly admit isn’t so very character oriented. A little hyper-sensitivity is part of a monomaniacal disorder when it comes to order in the kitchen as his particular condition and background bleeds into his personal life. One devoted to prepping his young granddaughter and mending things with her mother who’ll likely be threatened by minions causing in those dark SUV’s.
The maneuvering in Blacklight create little surprise or taut set pieces, even with a waste hauler on the freeway. At least not as distinctively as in recent Neeson forays like The Ice Road. From the rather obvious line-readings and pointed confrontations this is more lackluster than quality time the Neeson would rather be playing with his own progeny.