Review – He Has A Particular Set Of Skills (“Blacklight”)

Once you’ve been typecast into a certain role, you can be stuck there for a while. Liam Neeson, known for his seering Taken franchise is no exception, so when he’s in a different movie but with similar tropes, you can’t help but judge.

In a movie that should have gone straight-to-VOD and stole 104 mins of my life I’ll never get back, Neeson plays Travis Block, an off-the-books FBI agent (with OCD, BTW) that is called to do the bureaus dirty work by his buddy, FBI director Gabriel Robinson (Aidan Quinn). After getting a fellow agent out of a sticky situation, he’s tasked to bring in Dusty Crane (Taylor John Smith), a deep undercover agent that has damning evidence about the recent “accidental death” of Sofia Flores (Mel Jarnson), an up and coming political figure.

After Crane escapes and seeks out a journalist to break his news, Block is having second thoughts about his job; he’s tired and wants to spend more time with his daughter Amanda (Claire Van Der Boom), and his adorable five-year-old granddaughter, Natalie (Gabriella Sengos). Meanwhile, investigative reporter Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman), from the internet’s News Source, talks to Crane and wants to break his story, but her dick of a boss refuses without some further proof. So, while Crane is in the run from killer rogue agents, Block wants out of the FBI, but his boss won’t let him. Time to up the ante!

Block’s family soon vanishes and Crane is gone, making Block next on the FBI’s target list, but he won’t go quietly and decides to team up with Mira to take down his former best friend and all the FBI’s shady dealings. Oy! This schlock was written by first-time newbie writer Nick May and director Mark Williams, who gave us Neeson’s Honest Thief back in 2020, and has written some Ozark TV episodes. If you saw his Honest Thief, you can easily see the same parallels to this movie with stock cookie-cutter, clichéd, and over-used elements that make you want to scream, get up, and demand your money back from the box office.

Whereas Williams’ former movie was okay, this one suffers in comparison as his direction has gotten worse; strange lens and shutter flares for no reason (trying to be artistic, are we?), poorly filmed chase scenes that are anti-climatic and boring, and shoot-outs that are shot in almost total darkness! Are you kidding me? Who does that? Then there’s his truly awful script that is tedious, over-written, lacks any structure, and has most people doing the bi-polar shuffle with their emotions. And don’t get me started on the plot holes! Eeesh! At least Neeson, bless his heart, doesn’t phone in his performance. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

**Now showing in theaters only, but will be on cable in six months easy

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Vanquish (2021)

Y’know, sometimes you should leave well enough alone. Ruby Rose decided to exit her starring role in the CW’s Batwoman TV series so she could move on to other projects like movies, but hoo-boy! This film did not help her!     

In what’s arguably a paycheck movie for her and the legendary Morgan Freeman, this horrible straight-to-VOD film was deemed so bad it has to be seen to be believed. After a weird opening prologue, we are introduced to disabled Sgt. Damon Hickey (Freeman), a once decorated and courageous police officer who is now a wheelchair-bound bad guy, working behind the scenes with dirty cops and making money. There’s just one problem. . . how to get the cash to him. Enter Damon’s caretaker, ex-con and former drug-runner, Victoria (Rose), and her little girl, Lily (Juju Journey Brener), who happens to be sick with some terrible disease.

Damon offers her a deal: go retrieve five bags of cash that are around the city and I’ll pay for Lily’s expensive operation. Just one catch–I’ve kidnapped her and she’s being held hostage in one of my many rooms here, so you better get going! Now, does Victoria easily push this wheelchaired creep over, tie him up, find her daughter, and then flee this place? NOPE! She does his every bidding! *face palm* Anyway, equipped with guns and a two-way audio/video monitoring device, Victoria heads out into the night, first to a Russian dance club to kill a bunch of guys and grab the moolah.

Throughout the late-night & early morning, Victoria makes several pit stops to & from Damon’s to drop off bags of greenbacks. Each location has its own peril too, as Victoria goes to retrieve the booty: a dumb and boring chase scene, she gets a drugged drink that almost stops her, and a final location at the Governor’s home (Julie Lott). Stealing the Gov’s beautiful McLaren 720S car, she goes back to Damon who, now repented (???) of what he did to her, gives Victoria all the money, frees her kid, and then blows himself up! OMG, really?

This excruciatingly bad movie is brought to you by director George Gallo & screenwriter Samuel Bartlett, who have given us many movies you’ve never heard of, like Middle Man, Columbus Circle, Bigger, Local Color, and more. In other words, this one is just as bad as the others, with terrible, low-budget optical effects, questionable scene choices, a color palette that is laughable, and hilariously awful acting. What the hell was Morgan Freeman even doing in this movie, anyway? Did he really need a paycheck that badly? I can see Ruby Rose accepting, as she just left her TV cred behind her, but jeepers! This?! Oy!!  

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