Nothing from Netflix so far this year hasn’t reached the potential of being a serious awards contender, but some have been fairly entertaining, especially in the action genre. Before watching the streaming service’s latest Project Power (released today), I didn’t know where it would land on the enjoyment scale and wonder if it’s going to be a worthy movie worth watching, or something to start a franchise that doesn’t need to rely on having a big-budget.
What’s the Story: On the streets of New Orleans, there’s this newly developing street drug going around called “Power,” which is a pill that gives people unique superpowers for five minutes, but these powers are unpredictable for its users. To take down those who are distributing the pill, former soldier Art a.k.a. “The Major” (Jamie Foxx), police officer Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and a teenage drug dealer Robin (Dominique Fishback) must team up to stop them from spreading outside the city.
I didn’t know Project Power was a thing until images and the trailer released online last month, which is the normal marketing tactic for original movies on Netflix. Another thing I didn’t know about the movie was how the script was in some kind of bidding war with different studios, and it comes out at a time where the desperate craving for some kind of superhero movie is needed to push us through the remaining summer. Was it able to be exciting and fresh at the same time? Not quite.
Directors Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman, known for helming Catfish, the third (the best) and fourth installments of Paranormal Activity, and Nerve, put their style of use as their director looks slick while giving the New Orleans settings mostly a gritty look to it by a different way of exploring the superhero genre without any involved, credit to Michael Simmonds’ cinematography for feeling the environment around its characters. I feel when it comes to the overall story, that was the aspect of the movie that was the weakest because it never lived up to its potential in making me care about what was going on the entire time. It has like this was pitched like the underrated Bradley Cooper flick Limitless, but what if a pill doesn’t unlock your entire brain, but gives you powers? That sounds incredible hearing about it. Would you be able to have your body covered with fire, become invisible, or be impervious to bullets?It makes you wonder what kind you would have if this actually exists, and am I willing to take it knowing the varying results. Maybe possible death from blowing up.
If the rest of the movie was like that, it wouldn’t be any problem. However, there was just something about first-time screenwriter Mattson Tomlin (the upcoming The Batman)’s script that wasn’t hooking me all the way through. This was an original idea he came out with since he couldn’t get his hands on the well-known comic book properties from Marvel or DC and decide to write a script of his own. Nothing about the narrative broke new grounds when it doesn’t rely on anything special where I was expecting this to be a good stance of how we see the world exposing to this drug. Just the natural flow of it wasn’t sitting right with me. The world building is enough to understand it, but the script needed more to make me convince this is worth being invested with what’s surrounding it, to the point of not feeling like it belongs in the 2000s. The attempts at the humor weren’t working much so either. Honestly, the whole subplot about finding Foxx’s daughter wasn’t interesting to follow since she’s barely in the movie, and I felt like there should’ve been a reason for that arc to be included in this.
What’s the best thing about going to this? That’s to the three leads bringing what they got to their respective performances. Jamie Foxx brought his usual charisma to his performance as Art, the ex-military man who’s trying to find the source of Power while searching for his kidnapped daughter. Do I love me some Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Who doesn’t? It feels so good to see him in a movie again after a brief hiatus. I haven’t watched 7500 yet, and he’s going to star in The Trail of the Chicago 7 later on in the year, but he was capable enough to play Frank, the police offer who’s buying Power from Robin so he can use it during work to get it off the streets. Both Foxx and Gordon-Levitt are excellent, but the biggest standout throughout was Dominique Fishback as Robin. I’m not that familiar with her before watching this, but she plays to her strengths well as this high schooler who sells Power to support her sick mother and is an aspiring rapper. What I dug about this character the most is how she can succeed in being charming and determined without being a lame sidekick in all of this. Almost most of the runtime is devoted to her and Foxx, the two who had the most to do in this, having this sort of father-daughter relationship you kind of buy into, but not entirely. The dynamic between them was good, and I hope to see her in more stuff with her career. By the way, Foxx’s wardrobe is fresh, let me tell you.
The action in this was good enough, though this wasn’t on the level that we’ve seen just over a month ago with something like The Old Guard that was executed well enough to get by them. The closest set piece that was a little cool was this almost single take from inside this isolation tank where this woman is freezing to death. And its surprising $85 million budget certainly went to the visual effects, which were fairly decent for certain moments and not with others. Its R-rating was nearly tamed except for a few bloody moments to remind you it went for it. When following this corporation was old to follow since it didn’t feel like they were opposing a big enough threat for anyone to take down. Where there’s not enough energy to care about the generic bad guys (played by Rodrigo Santoro and Amy Landecker) who are trying to expand their product, and the main characters are good, but they weren’t fleshed out enough to know what they’re up against, especially with an uneven tone. It was close to losing my attention when it hits the third act. This is an interesting concept that could be a better idea suited for a graphic novel first.
In the end, Project Power could’ve been a ton of fun to consider its premise, but besides that and its solid performances from the cast, nothing else stood out from being a standard story that could’ve used more power itself. For me, it lands on being “meh.” Maybe it’s just me, but I’m just waiting for a great action movie from Netflix that’s worth recommending to everyone that isn’t forgettable. Still, if you think the story sounds cool enough and you’re a fan of the talents here, there’s a chance you might like it for yourself. Even after it’s over, this does make me want to finally watch The Boys to see if this even compares.