Review: ‘The Beekeeper’ (2024), starring Jason Statham

January 23, 2024

by Carla Hay

Jason Statham and Jeremy Irons in “The Beekeeper” (Photo by Daniel Smith/Amazon MGM Studios)

“The Beekeeper” (2024)

Directed by David Ayer

Culture Representation: Taking place in Boston, the action film “The Beekeeper” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A beekeeper with assassin skills goes after the online financial scammers who caused his hive landlord to commit suicide after she lost all of her money to their theft.

Culture Audience: “The Beekeeper” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Jason Statham and action films that don’t take themselves seriously.

Josh Hutcherson in “The Beekeeper” (Photo by Daniel Smith/Amazon MGM Studios)

“The Beekeeper” is a slapstick-styled action film that laughs at itself as much as it wants the audience to laugh at the movie. The vigilante beekeeper in the story delivers more cheesiness than honey, but it works well-enough for escapist entertainment. The comedic element saves this movie from being a bottom-of-the-barrel schlockfest.

Directed by David Ayer and written by Kurt Wimmer, “The Beekeeper” begins by showing the movie’s namesake Adam Clay (played by Statham) in the Boston area. He is tending to his bees on a semi-remote ranch owned by a widow named Eloise Parker (played by Phylicia Rashad), who is renting space on her property for Adam to have his bee business. Adam and Eloise have a mutually respectful relationship. Adam is the strong and silent type, but he has a very good rapport with Eloise, who looks out for him as if Adam were her own child.

One day, Eloise is on her laptop computer when she gets an urgent message on her screen saying that her computer has had a security breach and she should call the emergency phone number on the screen. She reaches a call center, where she talks to a slick manager who offers to help Eloise with her problem. What Eloise doesn’t know is that this manager, whose name is Mickey Garnett (played by David Witts), is really the sleazy supervisor of a financial fraud group that makes millions of dollars per month.

At this moment, Mickey is using his phone call with Eloise as a live example in training the call center’s minions, who all know they’re in the business of stealing from victims, especially gullible senior citizens. Eloise admits she’s not very good at using computers, so she lets Mickey walk her through a step-by-step process to let him get access to her computer. During this process, Mickey is smirking and bragging to his trainees about how Eloise is a perfect target.

It isn’t long before Mickey has hacked into all the bank accounts that Eloise has access to, including a community account that has $2 million. The community account is for a children’s charity where Eloise is the director who is a signatory authority. Mickey quickly steals all of the money in Eloise’s personal bank accounts and the community account, through a electronic transfers that she would not be able to trace. Eloise is completely devastated when she finds out what happened.

The next scene shows an FBI agent named Verona Parker (played by Emmy Raver-Lampman) arriving at Eloise’s darkened house and seeing Adam there with a knife. Verona, who doesn’t know who Adam is, immediately gets suspicious and demands to know what he’s doing there. And that’s when Adam and Verona look nearby and see Eloise dead from a gunshot wound and the gun lying next to her on the floor.

Adam is immediately placed under arrest, even though he insists that he had nothing to do with Eloise’s death. He explains that Eloise was his landlord for his beekeeper business and he would have no reason to harm her. It turns out that Verona is Eloise’s daughter, who was visiting to check up on Eloise after not hearing from her for a while.

A coroner’s report officially rules Eloise’s death as a suicide, so Adam is released from jail. Around the same time, Verona and Adam find out that the motive for Eloise’s suicide was that she felt overwhelming guilt and shame for losing not only all of her money but also the charity’s money. And you know what that means: Verona and Adam both want to find the scam leaders and get justice. However, Verona and Adam both have very different definitions of “justice.”

What’s a vigilante like Adam to do in a crass and violent action movie? He find outs the address of the call center and goes there to burn it down, of course. Adam shows up at the glassy office building with two cans of gas and some lighter fluid. Two security guards are there, but that doesn’t stop Adam. Some of this scene is already revealed in “The Beekeeper” trailer.

It’s enough to say that a lot of mayhem and madness ensue, including Adam causing terror in the call center and making the workers chant, “I will never prey on the weak and vulnerable again.” Adam becomes a one-man revenge army who can implausibly taken on several different opponents at the same time. It’s over-the-top ridiculous and hilarious at the same time.

Mickey isn’t the highest-ranking person in the financial fraud group. His boss is the group leader, a spoiled, rich brat named Derek Danforth (played by Josh Hutcherson), who is the heir to a Boston-based corporation called Danforth Enterprises. Derek’s widowed mother Jessica Danforth (played by Jemma Redgrave) is the president of Danforth Enterprises. (“The Beekeeper” was actually filmed in Boston and London.)

Danforth Enterprises has a fixer named Wallace Westwyld (played by Jeremy Irons), a former CIA director who is tasked with looking after Derek and getting him out of trouble. It’s hinted that Wallace and Jessica used to be romantically involved with each other, because Wallace acts almost like a stepfather to Derek. Wallace, who is very intuitive and jaded, is aware that Derek is involved in illegal activities, but Wallace doesn’t really want to hear the details unless he needs to know.

Derek is a habitual troublemaker, so he’s been keeping Wallace busy. And soon, Adam will be keeping Wallace busy too. Meanwhile, Verona is hot on the trail to bring down Derek’s fraud empire, but she’s in a race against time with Adam, who wants to get to Derek and his cronies first. You know how all of this is gong to end.

Why does this beekeeper have such amazing combat skills? That question is answered in the movie. It should come as no surprise that Adam as a big secret. Someone who knows that secret is current CIA director Janet Harward (played by Minnie Driver), who gives this information to certain people.

“The Beekeeper” is the type of movie where Wallace says of the special type of beekeeper that Adam is: “Beekeepers keep working until they die.” Wallace then says that Adam’s goal is to “keep killing until he gets to the top of the hive.” Some of the cast members look like they have a hard time keeping a straight face when saying all of this campy dialogue.

Nothing about “The Beekeeper” is award-worthy, of course, but the movie is very aware of how mindless it is and has fun with it. Unless a viewer is in a very bad mood, that fun is infectious to watch, as long as there are no expectations that “The Beekeeper” will be more than what it is: an uncomplicated, action-packed vigilante rampage.

Amazon MGM Studios released “The Beekeeper” in U.S. cinemas on January 12, 2024.

Review: ‘Dog’ (2022), starring Channing Tatum

February 17, 2022

by Carla Hay

Channing Tatum in “Dog” (Photo by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

“Dog” (2022)

Directed by Reid Carolin and Channing Tatum

Culture Representation: Taking place in Montana and the West Coast of the United States, the comedy/drama “Dog” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: In exchange for a job recommendation from an ex-boss, a former Army Ranger agrees to take an unruly Belgian Malinois named Lulu, who has been hailed as a war hero, to the funeral of the Army sergeant who was her handler.

Culture Audience: “Dog” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of star Channing Tatum and anyone who likes “rowdy dog” movies, no matter how dull and cliché they are.

Channing Tatum in “Dog” (Photo by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures) 

“Dog” can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a wacky comedy or a sentimental drama. Either way, it’s a dull misfire. The movie’s star dog literally takes a back seat to stupid antics from humans. Considering how irritating so many of the human characters are in the movie, it would have been a welcome improvement to give more screen time to the dog. In addition, “Dog” is completely irresponsible in showing legal issues of how people should handle problematic dogs that were trained to attack and kill.

“Dog” is one of those films where the funniest scenes are already in the movie’s trailer. And they’re not very funny, because the concept of an exasperated person who’s stuck taking care of an unruly dog has been done so much better in other movies. In addition, “Dog” is a road trip movie that rehashes the same old stereotypes of “mismatched duos” who are forced to go on the road together. And yes, one of the movie’s numerous clichés is a car breaking down during a crucial part of the road trip.

Channing Tatum stars in “Dog,” his feature-film directorial debut, which he co-directed with Reid Carolin, who wrote the “Dog” screenplay. In the movie, Tatum plays Jackson Briggs (who likes to be called by his last name), a down-on-his-luck former U.S. Army Ranger, who wants to get back into some type of government protection job. Instead, Briggs is living in Montana and working at a low-paying, behind-the-counter job at a deli. Briggs lives alone and is divorced. His ex-wife Niki (played by Q’orianka Kilcher) and their 3-year-old daughter (played by identical twins Jacqueline Seaman and Francine Seaman) live in Arizona.

The biggest obstacle to Briggs getting his dream job is that he has a history of brain injuries. Briggs has applied for a diplomatic security job at a company called Black Canopy Global Security. This job application won’t be considered unless he gets a full medical exam certified by his former commanding officer. The movie has some repetitive scenes of Briggs persistently calling Black Canopy Global Security to find out what he has to do to make it to the next level of this job application process.

Briggs has been told repeatedly that even though he has completed the medical exam with a doctor’s approval, he still needs to have his former commanding officer sign off on the exam. During one of these phone calls, Briggs finds out that the applications have a yearly rotation (people can only apply once a year), and this year’s rotation closes on the following Wednesday. “I can’t wait until next year’s rotation!” Briggs exclaims. “You’ll be hearing from me.”

Meanwhile, Briggs gets some bad news: A former Army buddy named Sgt. Riley Rodriguez (played by Eric Urbiztondo, seen only in photos) has died in a single-car crash, when Riley’s car rammed into a tree. Was it an accident or a suicide? The answer is revealed in the movie. And it’s exactly what you think it is.

Briggs goes to his former work base Fort Lewis in Joint Base Lewis–McChord in Washington state for the memorial. He meets up with some of his former Army buddies at a bar, but he feels slightly out of place because he’s the only one at this gathering who’s not in the military. They talk about Riley and the good times they had with him.

While he’s in the area, Briggs visits his former commanding officer at Fort Lewis. He almost doesn’t get in because his employee pass has expired, and the Fort Lewis MP (played by Devin White) at the gate won’t let him through the gate. Briggs acts hostile and defensive, even though the MP is just doing his job. It’s the first sign that Briggs can be an entitled jerk.

But luckily, right at that moment, Briggs’ former commanding officer Captain Luke Jones (played by Luke Forbes) drives up and tells the MP at the gate that it’s okay to give Briggs access. Briggs then drives through the gate while giving the MP a smug grin. This gatekeeping scenario is repeated again in other parts of the movie, with Briggs reacting in obnoxious ways to the guard at the gate, such has giving him the middle finger and cursing at him. Briggs is so immature, you almost expect him to stick out his tongue like a bratty child during these interactions.

When Briggs explains to Captain Jones that he needs him to certify Briggs’ medical exam for this security job application, Captain Jones initially refuses and asks sarcastically if Briggs paid a bribe to get a doctor clearance on a medical exam. However, Captain Jones changes his mind when he tells Briggs that he needs someone to transport Riley’s combat dog—a Belgian Malinois named Lulu—to Riley’s home state of Arizona to attend Riley’s funeral. After that, the dog will undergo euthanasia, because Lulu has been deemed unfit for adoption.

Captain Jones says that if Briggs can get Lulu to the funeral and back to Fort Lewis with no mishaps, then he will certify the medical exam for Briggs’ job application. The trip has to be done by car, because Lulu is too dangerous to take on public transportation. Captain Jones warns Briggs: “Lulu is not the same dog you served with. She’s got every combat trigger in the book.”

A montage at the beginning of the movie shows that Lulu was born on August 12, 2014. She was adopted at 5 months old by the Fort Lewis 75th Ranger Regiment. She served with Riley in the Afghanistan War. Lulu is considered too hard to handle because she has the canine version of post-traumatic stress disorder. She’s easily agitated and might attack if she’s “triggered.” (Three dogs actually play Lulu in the movie. Their names are Zuza, Britta and Lana 5.)

Lulu often has to wear a muzzle because of how unpredictable she is with her attacks. Briggs finds out the hard way when he sees Lulu for the first time in years. And she immediately knocks him down during an attack. Captain Jones and the kennel master (played by Trent McDonald) just laugh at this spectacle. Expect to see more “out-of-control attacking dog” scenes that wouldn’t be funny at all in real life.

As so, off Briggs and Lulu go on this road trip in his 1984 Ford Bronco. Briggs is told the dog can only wear the muzzle for two hours at a time, or else she’ll get overheated. Briggs starts his road trip with Lulu on a Wednesday. The funeral is four days later, on a Sunday. His job application is due the following Wednesday. Therefore, “Dog” is not only a road trip movie, but it’s also a “race against time” movie. But you wouldn’t know it by how this movie drags and lumbers along with distractions that would take up valuable hours in real time.

Early on in the road trip, Briggs stops at a shooting range to spend time there for fun. When he comes back to his Bronco, he finds that Lulu has broken out of her carrier and chewed up the upholstery seating. “You’re just a demon!” he yells at Lulu, before he drugs her so that she’ll go to sleep. Briggs openly laughs that he can make this dog unconscious whenever he wants. Yes, this movie tries to make a pathetic joke out of a dog being drugged to unconsciousness.

It should come as no surprise that at some point in the movie, Briggs doesn’t bother putting the muzzle on her. That’s because there are many scenes contrived so that Lulu’s agitated barking causes unwanted attention, with Briggs acting mortified, while some unrealistic slapstick comedy scenario ensues. These scenarios have no imagination and are actually not very amusing.

One of the stops on the Briggs Buffoonery Tour is Portland, Oregon. The filmmakers of “Dog” must have some type of grudge against Portland, because there’s a big chunk of the movie that shows open disdain for Portland residents. Everyone in Portland is depicted as progressive liberal hipsters, weirdos or aging hippies who automatically dislike/distrust people with a military background. It’s an over-the-top portrayal that’s supposed to be funny, but it just comes across as lazy and unrealistic stereotyping. Portland is a lot more diverse than the narrow-minded, warped way that the city’s residents are depicted in “Dog.”

On his first night in Portland, Briggs goes to a bar to find any woman who wants to have sex with him. The bartender (played by Luke Jones) announces to Briggs that they only serve organic beer. While waiting in line to use the restroom, Briggs is pestered by a guy (played by Cole Walliser) babbling to him about technology and virtual gifts. And then, Briggs meets a succession of women who don’t have regular conversations with him. They give sanctimonious lectures spouting their political views to let him know how “woke” they are.

One woman named Sonia (played by Tory Freeth) says she likes country music but has a problem with how country music celebrates “toxic masculinity.” Did she forget that there are plenty of successful female country artists? Another woman named Natalie (played by Skyler Joy) scolds Briggs after she find out he’s an Afghanistan War veteran: “Did you realize you were just a pawn for Big Oil? Just body bags carrying out ecological genocide for the corporate elite?” Another woman named Tara (Patricia Isaac) says she’d like to meet any man who doesn’t have a “white savior complex.”

Briggs leaves the bar in disgust at all the politically correct people he met there. In the parked truck, he tells Lulu, “We’ve got to get out of here, because you’re the only woman in this entire city that I’d like to have a conversation with.” But just then, Briggs thinks he’s going to get lucky with two women who approach him in the parking lot because they see Lulu in his truck. The women—whose names are Bella (played by Emmy Raver-Lampman) and Zoe (played by Nicole LaLiberte)—live together and have Shih Tzus with them, so they all talk about their dogs. Bella and Zoe, who describes themselves as “tantric healers,” invite Briggs back to their house, for what he’s sure will be a sexual threesome.

Bella, Zoe and Briggs start to get touch-feely at the house, and his shirt comes off. Lulu doesn’t like being cooped up in the truck, of course. She starts barking loudly while the Bronco is parked out on the street, in front of Bella and Zoe’s house. A nosy next-door neighbor named Brad (played by Timothy Eulich) comes out of his house and gets angry—not at Lulu, but at Briggs for keeping the dog in the car. Brad yells that the dog is an “abused animal” and continues his rant by saying, “Animals are people too!”

A shirtless Briggs runs outside to see what all the commotion is about, and he sees that Brad has a rock in his hand. Briggs tells Brad to put down the rock, but an incensed Brad calls Briggs a “redneck,” even though Brad knows nothing about Briggs. And then, Brad throws the rock at the back window to smash it and so Lulu can jump out of the car. (And apparently, with “concerned animal lover” Brad not caring if the shattered glass could injure the dog.)

After the entire back window is broken, Lulu jumps out and tears off part of Brad’s jacket before he quickly runs back into his house. Bella and Zoe, who witnessed all this chaos, are so turned off by this violence, they don’t want anything to do with Briggs. Briggs has a hissy fit while he puts Lulu back in the car again. He yells at Lulu: “You ruined an epic threesome!” And then he shouts at her: “Bitch!” Yes, the movie is that idiotic.

Briggs finds himself in more ridiculous scenarios. In one sequence, Lulu runs away in a wooded area, with Briggs giving chase on foot. He ends up in a marijuana greenhouse owned by a hippie-ish married couple named Gus (played by Kevin Nash) and Tamara (played by Jane Adams), who’s another “cosmic” type who likes to talk about karma and energy. It’s one of the worst parts of the movie because of how mindless and unfunny it is. (Hint: A tranquilizer gun and a kidnapping are involved in this scenario.)

More of Briggs’ asinine antics continue. Another low point in the movie is in San Francisco, where he pretends to be a blind military veteran so he can get a free room at a luxury hotel. What happens in the hotel is partially shown in the trailer for “Dog.” But there’s a tone-deaf scenario in the movie where Briggs is accused of being a racist after Lulu attacks a man wearing Muslim garb in the hotel lobby, because she was trained to attack men wearing Muslim garb in the Afghanistan War.

Unrealistically, Briggs is arrested for a hate crime, when he should have been arrested for negligent handling of an animal. As shown in the movie’s trailer, Lulu’s rampage also “outed” Briggs for not being blind, as he claimed he was, so he’s also arrested for fraud. Needless to say, there’s more time wasted as Briggs is locked up in jail.

The man who was attacked is named Dr. Al-Farid (played by Junes Zahdi), who has to decide whether or not he’ll press charges against Briggs. Because this movie is so sloppily written, it never addresses how the hotel wants to handle the fraud charges. It also never shows what would happen in real life: The dog would be taken away to a city animal shelter and undergo euthanasia because it viciously attacked a human being who did not provoke the dog.

But there would be no “Dog” movie in all of its awfulness if the movie tried to be realistic. Briggs’ version of “dog therapy” is to show Lulu videos of herself fighting in a combat zone. (Briggs gets the videos from an I Love Me scrapbook that Riley made for Lulu.) Not only does Briggs stupidly reinforce anti-social behavior for the dog, but he also rewards the dog for it with treats, like she’s a child who needs to just be parked in front of a TV and given snacks while watching violent videos of herself. It’s so heinous and absolutely the wrong way to teach a dog how to un-learn violent training.

After a lot of pathetic attempts to be a zany comedy, the movie takes an abrupt turn into sappiness that’s supposed to be tearjerking but comes across as cynical and calculated. It’s all very unearned. People who know how long it takes for a problematic dog to un-learn any dangerous training will be rolling their eyes at the ending of the movie. Lulu’s personality transformation in less than a week is very unreal.

There’s a scene where Briggs meets a man named Noah (played by Ethan Suplee), and it’s enough to say that no expert “dog whisperer”/dog trainer in the world would be able to accomplish what Noah does in less than an hour. This dog would’ve been permanently taken away from Briggs after his arrest in San Francisco. An incompetent character like Briggs makes things worse, but the movie lets him off the hook too easily. The redemption arc that’s rushed in at the end of the movie is extremely phony.

There’s not much to say about the acting in this movie except that most of it ranges from adequate to not very impressive. The movie’s editing, tone and pacing are all very uneven. The horrendous screenplay has too many plot holes and unrealistic scenarios that give misleading depictions of how military combat dogs are handled. And a big takeaway from “Dog” is that Tatum has the dubious distinction of co-directing himself in a movie where a dog has a better personality and more intelligence than the character he plays in the movie.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures will release “Dog” in U.S. cinemas on February 18, 2022.

Review: ‘Blacklight,’ starring Liam Neeson

February 12, 2022

by Carla Hay

Liam Neeson and Taylor John Smith in “Blacklight” (Photo courtesy of Open Road Films/Briarcliff Entertainment)


Directed by Mark Williams

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Washington, D.C., the action film “Blacklight” features a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: An undercover “fixer” for the FBI finds himself enmeshed in a corrupt conspiracy that endangers his life and the lives of others.

Culture Audience: “Blacklight” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of star Liam Neeson and ludicrous action movies.

Emmy Raver-Lampman and Liam Neeson and in “Blacklight” (Photo courtesy of Open Road Films/Briarcliff Entertainment)

Ever since the success of the “Taken” movie series, Liam Neeson has dragged himself down a shameless and shoddy hole of “Taken” ripoff movies. “Blacklight” is one of the worst. There is absolutely nothing original about this movie, which just re-uses and dumbs down plot elements from better action flicks, and then throws in lot of noisy stunts and fight scenes to distract from the ridiculous story. The movie has an awkward mix of gritty violence and ultra-sugary sentimentality. And through it all, Neeson looks like he’s just there for the easy money to play the same type of character over and over in these “Taken” ripoff movies.

“Blacklight” was directed by Mark Williams, who co-wrote the movie’s terrible screenplay with Nick May. Williams’ previous movie was 2020’s “Honest Thief,” which also starred Neeson as yet another grouchy loner with a troubled history and a bad temper. “Honest Thief” was another schlocky, unrealistic action flick, but at least “Honest Thief” tried to have some unexpected plot twists. “Blacklight” doesn’t even try. In fact, about 20 minutes into this 108-minute movie, it’s very easy to predict how everything is going to end.

In “Blacklight,” Neeson plays another “lone wolf” type with a particular set of skills in fighting whomever he fights in the movie. Neeson’s Travis Block character has been working “off the books” as an undercover “fixer” for the FBI. His boss is FBI director Gabriel Robinson (played by Aidan Quinn), who has one of the cheapest-looking and most basic offices that you’ll ever see in a movie for the supposed top leader of the FBI. He might as well be a back-office manager of a toilet-paper company with the type of office that he has in this movie. “Blacklight” is a fairly low-budget film, but the movie’s production design is laughably incompetent.

The story takes place mostly in Washington, D.C., but the movie was actually filmed in Australia. Regardless of where it was filmed, the low-quality cinematography often gives scenes a blue-gray tinge that makes locations look as soulless as a drab slab of steel. And for an action film, “Blacklight” has too many dull moments that aren’t helped by the movie’s subpar editing.

“Blacklight” opens with a political rally led by a progressive liberal politician named Sofia Flores (played by Mel Jarnson), who is obviously supposed to be like this movie’s version of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In the audience of Sofia’s enthusiastic supporters is Dusty Crane (played by Taylor John Smith), who cheers his approval at everything Sofia says during the rally. Viewers find out later that Dusty is a former FBI agent who went rogue. Tragedy strikes after Sofia leaves the rally: She’s run over by a car, which speeds off.

Meanwhile, Travis is shown coming to the rescue of an undercover FBI agent named Helen Davidson (played by Yael Stone), who is trapped in a house trailer with an angry mob of about 10 to 15 white supremacists taunting her outside. Before Travis arrives, he finds out that Helen had been undercover to infiltrate this white supremacist group. However, Helen’s cover was blown, the mob outside knows she works for the FBI, and now these racists want to get violent revenge on Helen.

Travis does exactly what you think he would do to take on this furious mob that looks like it’s about to set the trailer on fire: He blows something up, and then runs off with Helen through a back door. And if people got killed during this massive explosion, oh well. “Blacklight” is so idiotic, it doesn’t bother explaining why Travis was sent all by himself for this dangerous rescue, when he was clearly outnumbered and had no backup in case things went wrong.

Back at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., Travis gives his boss Gabriel a briefing on what happened with this rescue. However, Gabriel has something bigger that’s preoccupying his thoughts: The death of Sofia is big news, and he wants to squash an investigation that could prove that her death was a planned murder. Sofia’s supporters are putting pressure on law enforcement to investigate her death as a homicide. Gabriel tells Travis that as far as he’s concerned, Sofia’s death was a hit-and-run accident, no matter what “politically correct protestors” want to say.

It’s at this point in the movie, Gabriel might as well wear a T-shirt that says, “Corrupt FBI Director Stuck in a Horrible Movie.” It’s also shown in the trailer for “Blacklight” that Gabriel is the movie’s chief villain. Later in the movie, it’s revealed that Travis and Gabriel did combat together during the Vietnam War. They lost touch with each other after the war. But then, 15 years ago, Gabriel contacted Travis out of the blue to offer him this undercover “fixer” job for the FBI. Travis has been a loyal employee ever since.

However, Travis wants to retire. Why? Because he wants to spend more time with his granddaughter Natalie (played by Gabriella Sengos), who’s about 5 or 6 years old and is a typical cute kid who says adorable things that make Travis feel all mushy inside. Natalie’s mother is Travis’ daughter Amanda Block (played by Claire van der Boom), who has been raising Natalie on her own, ever since Natalie’s father abandoned them. Amanda has abandonment issues because her mother (Travis’ ex-wife) also left the family when Amanda was a child.

The reasons for the collapse of Travis’ marriage remain vague in the movie. However, at one point, Travis remorsefully tells Amanda that he wasn’t a good husband and father, but he wants to make up for it by being the best grandfather he can be to Natalie. “Blacklight” has its sappiest moments when Travis tries to be an upstanding and reformed family man. But it all looks so phony when he does terrible and violent things that he knows are cover-ups for the FBI’s dirty deeds. Travis justifies it in his mind by saying he doesn’t believe in deliberately killing “innocent” people.

Meanwhile, at an unnamed newspaper that’s supposed to be as prominent as The Washington Post, ambitious reporter Mira Jones (played by Emmy Raver-Lampman) and her editor Drew Hawthorne (played by Tim Draxl) talk about the sudden death of Sofia. Mira, who calls Sofia a “voice of her generation,” thinks Sofia’s death could have been a political assassination, and Mira wants to investigate it for the newspaper. Sofia’s death has officially been ruled as an accident, and Drew believes this official report. He decides the official cause of death should be the story that the newspaper should have, so he declines Mira’s offer to investigate further.

Mira doesn’t know it yet, but her world will collide with Dusty and Travis. Dusty has bombshell information about the FBI that he wants to give to Mira. He’s in such turmoil about this information, he’s been drinking heavily and popping pills. That’s what he’s seen doing as he’s parked in his car outside of a police station. And he has an unconcealed, loaded gun next to him on the front passenger seat.

Some cops approach Dusty to ask him why he’s parked there. They see the loaded gun and ask Dusty to step out of the car to arrest him, since it’s illegal to have an unconcealed weapon in a car. Dusty resists arrest by suddenly assaulting the police officers. He’s outnumbered and easily arrested.

In jail, Dusty gets a visit from Travis, who wonders why Dusty could be so reckless and foolish. Travis is under orders from Gabriel to bail Dusty out of jail and bring Dusty into “special” FBI custody. Dusty tells Travis that he’s going to tell a reporter some information, and he’s not going to let anyone stop him. The information has to do with a secret government conspiracy called Operation Unity.

“Blacklight” is such a stupid movie that when Travis takes Dusty into custody in Travis’ car, Travis doesn’t handcuff both hands behind Dusty’s back. Instead, he has only one of Dusty’s hands handcuffed to a hook near a car window. And then, instead of locking Dusty up in a secure area, Travis takes a detour because he has a parent-teacher meeting at Natalie’s school. Travis leaves Dusty in his car unattended. And you know what that means.

Dusty escapes, of course, and that leads to a lengthy chase scene where Dusty steals a truck, and speeds down streets and on pedestrian sidewalks, thereby causing several car crashes and injuries. Travis races after Dusty in Travis’ car, and at one point their vehicles are side by side, with the windows open. Travis shouts at Dusty, “What the hell are you doing?” Dusty yells back, “I’m going to free my conscience!”

What’s the big rush, Dusty? It turns out that Dusty wants to meet with Mira, to give her the bombshell information that he has stored on a computer flash drive. That’s why Travis ends up meeting Mira too. But things don’t go smoothly for all three of them, of course. And not everyone makes it out alive by the end of the movie.

Dusty manages to escape from Travis and goes into hiding. Two FBI goons with the last names Lockhart (played by Andrew Shaw) and Wallace (played by Zac Lemons) are sent to go after Dusty. And the person who sent them is exactly who you expect it would be. The Washington, D.C. police department is also looking for Dusty since he’s now an outlaw who skipped bail. And, of course, Travis has to hunt down Dusty too.

“Blacklight” is such a sloppily made and terrible movie that it throws in a few things to try to make the characters look “deep and complicated,” but then does nothing with these subplots. For example, it’s revealed that Travis has obsessive compulsive disorder, but there’s barely any evidence of this OCD. The only person in Travis’ life to mention his OCD is Amanda, who tells Travis: “Your quirks aren’t quirks anymore. I sometimes wonder if your quirks changed you, or was it your dirty job?”

Mira has a backstory that’s introduced and then left to dangle as a meaningless plot strand. Travis and Mira end up reluctantly helping each other, because she’s been investigating Gabriel for ordering assassinations of political enemies and whistleblowers. (It’s another plot point that’s revealed in the movie’s trailer.) In fact, the “Blacklight” trailer gives away about 90% of the movie’s plot, including Natalie going missing, and Travis confronting Gabriel before their big showdown.

None of the acting is very impressive, although Raver-Lampman and van der Boom seem to be making an attempt to bring emotional nuance to their characters. Any effort to give a good performance is just wasted on a bad movie that has no intentions of being original in moronically staged and poorly written scenes in this inferior revenge flick. “Blacklight” is as suspenseful as wondering if Neeson is going to star in yet another “Taken” ripoff after making this garbage film.

Open Road Films and Briarcliff Entertainment released “Blacklight” in U.S. cinemas on February 11, 2022.

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