PROJECT POWER | Film Review

RELEASED: August 14th 2020
DISTRIBUTED BY: Netflix
DIRECTED BY: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
WRITTEN BY: Mattson Tomlin
PRODUCED BY: Eric Newman & Bryan Unkeless
MUSIC BY: Joseph Trapanese
STARRING: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback, Rodrigo Santoro, Colson Baker, Allen Maldonado, Amy Landecker & Courtney B. Vance

REVIEW: Project Power follows a teenage drug dealer, Robin, her police officer associate Frank and a mysterious former-military agent dubbed the Major, as they are each drawn into an investigation around a new drug – power – that is being distributed in New Orleans. The pill gives the user a unique superpower for five minutes and is being monitored by a shady organisation whose presence threatens to push the city into chaos.

On some level, the film does have that same general, sheen of many lesser Netflix sci-fi films and thrillers, which doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence that this film will be worth your time from the outset.

A generic soundtrack won’t do much to change that opinion, nor will the similarly generic ‘Netflix’ villains (the last new movie I watched was The Old Guard – the villains are essentially just the same people played by different actors).

Fortunately, the premise is a strong one and allows the film to find it’s footing pretty quickly. It knows that with a multitude of films and television shows at your fingertips that it needs to grab your attention as soon as possible; as such, the first action sequence happens within the first fifteen minutes of the movie.

But while the action has been praised by other critics, personally I think its quality varies quite a lot and betrays the main problem this film has. While the work needed to make a good action sequence is there, the way it’s often shot took me out of it. Between shaky-cam footage, misdirection and occasionally frantic CGI, you often can’t see what’s actually going on. It’s hectic and although potentially well choreographed, in my opinion, not filmed in an optimum way.

The problem this highlights with the film, I think, is that there’s so much potential bubbling under the surface that that isn’t always utilized. Subplots about corruption in the police, opportunities for black youth, and the infamous events in New Orleans past and how that could relate to super-powered people are brought up, but rarely truly explored. Similarly, while the powers and their activation are often the best part of the film, rarely do we see anything truly unique. Invisibility, super strength, elasticity, invulnerability. These are all fairly commonplace within superhero stories now, and while they are executed in really interesting ways, it would have been cool for them to go a little deeper. You do get some dope facts about nature in the exposition though. Did you know there’s a frog that can pop its bones out, not unlike Wolverine? I didn’t.

Fortunately, the lead trio of Foxx, Levitt and Fishback is excellent. They take their characters and really make them feel real and relatable. I quickly found myself getting invested in their stories and their personal journeys, despite prior reservations. Each gives a great performance, and are the main reason to stick with this film.

And as they continue to elevate the film, so too do the action and the special effect seem to improve, to the point that, by the time you reach the third act, the film feels confident in itself. While I think the actual climax was a bit of a letdown, as the payoff to the film constantly teases you with the fact that Foxx’s character is yet to reveal his unique power was to me, a bit meh, the overall narrative, and the gritty nature of the world make this a story that you’d like to see a more thorough exploration of.

As it stands, there is room for improvement in this movie, but thanks to the writers, special effects artists and actors, you’ve got an interesting new take on the superhero story.

All-in-all, I give it:

Thanks for reading! What did you think of Project Power? And what super power do you wish you had (you can only have one)? Let me know in the comments below!

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