Recommendation: It scratches an itch in a year that’s devoid of blockbusters, but it doesn’t quite reach highs in either the pure entertainment or gravitas categories. 5/10.
IMDB Synopsis: When a pill that gives its users unpredictable superpowers for five minutes hits the streets of New Orleans, a teenage dealer and a local cop must team with an ex-soldier to take down the group responsible for its creation.
Project Power is interesting. On one hand, it’s a very slick looking well-made entrant into the superhero genre for Netflix. On the other hand, it’s being pulled in too many directions to become a fully fleshed out and engrossing film. The star actors punch up the film, but the nonsensical plot and genre flip flopping bring it back down to Earth. While it’s not as bad as other genre flicks like Bright or floppy as The Dark Tower, it doesn’t reach the heights of the recent The Old Guard or even little seen Spectral.
Project Power finds the military industrial complex is becoming the latest drug cartel, testing a new drug aptly called Power, that gives a user five minutes of superpowers—be it super strength, invisibility, ability to turn into the human torch, etc. The kicker is that you don’t know what superpower you’ll have until you take it for the first time… and sometimes you just explode. All based on psuedo-animal kingdom science (a la Jurassic World), the big, poorly named dealer, Biggie (Rodrigo Santoro) is testing the drug on the underclass of New Orleans. Project Power has three storylines: Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a streetwise and “doesn’t play by the rules” type of detective, trying to track down the source of Power, and protect the people of the Big Easy. Art (Jamie Foxx) is an ex-military man searching for his daughter who have been taken by the people responsible for Power. Robin (Dominique Fishback) is a high school aged aspiring rapper looking to make a few bucks slinging Power to pay her ailing mother’s medical bills.
All three coalesce and merge by the climactic final act but the movie is really just following three disparate parts of the same larger story in New Orleans. The highlights are thrilling: Art fights a human torch-esque dealer named Newt (Machine Gun Kelly), Frank chased down an invisible bank robber while stopping a bullet to the head while on Power, and some beautiful body horror as a leggy model tries Power for the first time. Through these parts it’s easy to see why Project Power is popular, it looks really good and the effects are top notch. But when the film veers away from pure eye candy, things to less successfully. There’s some social commentary on the state of post-Katrina New Orleans that isn’t quite fleshed out. Art’s character motivation and conclusion veers into YA schlock territory. JGL is capital A acting in a film that doesn’t have the gravitas or emotional heft to require it. The big bad and their lackeys are laughably underwhelming, and the conclusion drifts into Deus Ex Machina territory.
It’s unclear whether the directors and actors (and Netflix) will want this to become a franchise or just another in the long line of Netflix one offs. Regardless, Project Power will be watched by a lot of people by virtue of the Netflix machine, and in a summer devoid of action blockbusters, it’s not the worst thing. But it could have been so much more.
Find it here on Netflix.
MVP: I think JGL does the best work here, putting in more work than the character requires (all in a Saints jersey, no less). Dominique Fishback holds her own in mostly two-handeds with Jamie Foxx, too.
Highlights: The aforementioned Jamie Foxx / Machine Gun Kelly fight is pretty inventive. JGL’s weird southern non-accent, accent. Rodrigo Sanford gives its 110% in a late scene (you’ll know it).
Directors: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Studio: Netflix Release date: August 14, 2020