Project Power is Netflix’s new 2-hour distraction. It follows Art (Jamie Foxx), as he teams up with teen drug dealer Robin (Dominique Fishback), and hunts for a shady corporation that took his daughter. A corporation that also happens to be pumping the streets of New Orleans with ‘pill form superpowers’ which the users find can have dangerous side effects. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is in it too, playing rogue police officer Frank, but that’s neither here nor there.
Project Power is a fantastic missed opportunity. There. I said it. We can all go home.
No, but seriously. I will give this movie all the credit it is due. It’s a surprisingly suspenseful action romp with masterclass level CGI and an incredible small screen performance by Dominique Fishback.
My primary gripe with the flick is its weak character-driven plots. Robin deals ‘Power’ to the streets of New Orleans in an attempt to save up money for an operation required by her severely diabetic mother. While this storyline is utilized well to develop her character, its overuse in other movies and tv shows is hard to overlook.
The ‘whatever-the-cost’ Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a hero cop with no clearly defined backstory. There is nothing to tie the audience to his character beyond him being a good guy. JGL manages to pull this barebones role off through his natural charisma, though on paper, the lack of character should have stood out as a red flag.
Jamie Foxx’s Art is ripped straight from a WWE wrestler’s low budget revenge movie about an ex-marine. You know, the plot where “they” took his daughter and now he’s out for blood. The only spin on the trope is the temporary superpower premise that it’s all wrapped up in.
Even the main antagonist, Dr Gardner (Amy Landecker), leaves a lot to be desired. The plot, unfortunately, paints her as a scientist who doesn’t understand science or medical history. “The makings of a true villain,” said no one as you realise you have no idea who this woman is or why you should even care. She only properly appears within the last half an hour of the film. Then, having established absolutely no rapport with the viewer, she proceeds to be far more annoying than menacing right until her timely demise.
All things considered, the temporary superpower premise is a refreshing take on the superhero movie plot that helps elevate the story beyond its mundane settings and characters.
Additionally, I enjoyed the concept that each person’s superpower is something of a lottery. They could have super strength, bone claws or regenerative abilities. They could also just explode. In a helpful, if not hyper expository, scene of a ‘Power’ sales pitch, Dr Gardner’s main lackey explains that all superpowers derive from the animal kingdom. However, the ‘powers’ can have unpredictable effects on a human who has not undergone the millions of years of evolution required for a creature to utilise its abilities. Moreover, for a film that tries to ground itself in science, some of the ‘powers’ seem to defy it. For example, the idea that thermoregulation would allow someone to set themselves on fire or freeze themselves to death defeats the point of the ability. If there is an animal in nature running around on fire, I would prefer to avoid it.
Ultimately, the film was good. If it had been a series instead of a movie, it could have explored its themes and characters much further. The concept was intriguing and had great potential within the superhero genre, but narrowly failed to stand at its pinnacle alongside the big-budget titans with which we are acquainted.