One of the biggest problems with underdeveloped scripts is that they spend so much time talking about what they are going to do, and much less time actually doing anything. Blackway has this problem.
It’s not even that the script to Blackway is even all that bad, it’s just underdeveloped. It’s all hype and no bite. Based off of the short novel Go with Me, the film clearly has some interesting ideas going for it, but it never feels like it settles into the cinematic format. The story takes place in the Pacific Northwest where a woman named Lillian (Julia Stiles) is being harassed. No one in the town is willing to help her, because they are all afraid of the man who is harassing her, except for a young man named Nate (Alexander Ludwig) and his mentor, Lester (Anthony Hopkins). The whole movie involves this trio attempting to track down the titular character and supposed scariest man of all of time, played by… Ray Liotta…
It’s not even that Ray Liotta isn’t intimidating, it’s just that his character is never given anything all that scary to do. In the screen time he receives, he’s creepy, but doesn’t do anything to warrant the sheriff being afraid of dealing with him. The result is an underdog revenge thriller that just feels like a game of hide-and-seek. The protagonists go to one location, don’t find Blackway, hear about how scary he is and then leave to try and find him in a different place. This goes on for a while, until an inevitable and underwhelming climax occurs, and then the movie is over.
And there aren’t even any subplots to keep the film interesting. There are some flashbacks that don’t add anything, but that’s about it. None of the scenes are even uninteresting or poorly done. It’s just that there is no momentum behind the movie, and so eventually the film becomes tedious and tiresome.
At least the performances here are pretty solid. And that’s saying a lot, because the actors don’t seem to have a lot to work with. Anthony Hopkins is charismatic in an old man kind of way. He doesn’t move very quickly, but he moves decisively and everything he says seems so wise, even when the dialogue doesn’t really make sense. Alexander Ludwig, known for his more physical roles in movies such as The Hunger Games and Lone Survivor, surprises with an awkward and unassuming stature as well as a distinct lisp. Finally, Julia Stiles redeems the script by building an active character from what seemed like it was originally passive.
This is especially welcome because Blackway walks a fine line between seeming supportive and seeming yucky. Lillian’s struggle with Blackway is largely a plot device, and in some of the weaker moments other female characters are seen and used as only victims for the audience to feel sympathy for. Instead of dealing with Blackway, the other characters simply suggest that Lillian leaves town, which is incredibly frustrating. Thankfully, Lillian is given autonomy, and the movie goes from being gross to just very mediocre.