‘Blacklight’ generic paranoia thriller; ‘Ruby’ family drama



One question that fans of Liam Neeson need to consider is whether following the career path of Steven Seagal in action pictures is worthy of emulation for a talented actor just shy of being a septuagenarian.

The Northern Irish thespian’s starring role in 2008’s “Taken,” in which he played a retired CIA operative who employed his “particular set of skills” to harshly deal with abductors of his teenage daughter kidnapped while on a trip to Paris, was followed by a series of similar films.

“Taken” turned into a trilogy, where he saved family members before having to finally save himself after being framed for the murder of his ex-wife and then using his talents to track down the real killers.

This brings us to “Blacklight,” where Neeson’s Travis Block is a deep undercover agent and a “fixer” for the FBI under the direction of its director Gabriel Robinson (Aidan Quinn), both of whom served together during the Vietnam War.

The film’s opening would seemingly appear to cleverly recall the paranoia of political thrillers from the 1970s when charismatic Congressional candidate Sofia Flores (Mel Jarnson) ends in the crosshairs of a shadowy conspiracy.

On the scene of the Flores political rally in the nation’s capital is Dusty Crane (Taylor John Smith), who we soon learn is an undercover FBI agent working for Director Robinson on a covert assignment of dubious origins.

A chain of events propels Crane to take drastic measures to reveal the foreboding conspiracy dubbed “Operation Unity” at high levels in the FBI, leading the agent to connect with website news reporter Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman).

As seen before in other films of the genre, Block tries to make amends as an absentee parental figure to his single mom daughter Amanda (Claire van der Boom) and young granddaughter Natalie (Gabriella Sengos).

To that end of seeking more quality time with family, Block wants out of his extraction duties, but Director Robinson won’t hear of it and insists that he must bring the errant Crane back into the fold.

Without giving away some twists, Block begins to harbor doubts about his superiors, and with a little push from journalist Jones, a light begins to shine on the sinister truth of “Operation Unity.”

Soon enough, Block is on a collision course with his old war buddy Robinson when his daughter and granddaughter mysteriously vanish from their home that Block had outfitted with cameras and sensors.

As expected, the obligatory gunfights and high-speed car chases add to the thrills, and Block delivers a few catchy lines, the best one being telling the menacing Robinson, protected by two agents, “you’re gonna need more men.”

According to the dictionary, blacklight is invisible ultraviolet light or infrared radiation. Given that blacklight could be used to detect that which is not visible to the naked eye, perhaps the title “Blacklight” is a metaphor for the unmasking of the bad guys.

Frankly, this generic Liam Neeson thriller does not merit any serious thought about the meaning of the film’s title. It’s so indistinctive that the only proper thing is for it to fall quickly into a black hole of one’s memory.

Having enjoyed the ride with many of Neeson’s previous forays into the genre, particularly with the original “Taken,” my suggestion is that anyone tempted to see “Blacklight” should save a few bucks and wait for its inevitable appearance on a streaming service.


BYUtv is a free streaming service that produces a number of original series. “Ruby and the Well” is a 10-episode family drama, premiering on Sunday, Feb. 27, that follows the adventures of 14-year-old Ruby O’Reilly (Zoe Wiesenthal) in the rural town of Emerald.

After inheriting her great uncle’s apple orchard, Ruby and her dad Daniel (Kristopher Turner) arrive in Emerald, flush with hope for the future. To their surprise, the orchard and the town are in disrepair, and everyone seems to be going through a rough patch.

All that starts to change when Ruby discovers a profound way to impact the lives of the townspeople by granting their innermost wishes, which have been captured and stored in a magic well on their property.

While Ruby and her new best friends Mina (Lina Sennia) and Sam (Dylan Kingwell) work on solving the wishes one by one, Daniel toils in the disheveled apple orchard, determined to make their new lives work, even if it means taking side gigs to support the family.

But as the town’s rejuvenation draws attention from outside, a stranger from the city shows up with an offer that threatens everything Ruby has been working for. She and her friends must figure out a way to fight back while still honoring the well’s purpose.

“Ruby and the Well” invites viewers to a place where new beginnings and second chances have room to grow. Fittingly enough, this series is intended as entertainment for the whole family.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.