Project Power movie cast: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback
Project Power movie directors: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Project Power movie rating: Two and a half stars
Project Power, an Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost directorial, is about a pill that gives temporary superpowers to the consumer. There is a catch, though. Like the box of chocolates which Forrest Gump’s mother talked about, one would not know what superpower is going to be unlocked before popping one. The superpowers can range from bullet-proof skin to invisibility to superhuman strength. Another catch is, even one dose can be fatal.
The pill is developed by a shady corporation whose motives are never really made clear. It hopes to sell it to sow chaos and topple governments. One the other hand, it also wishes to earn money by mass-producing it.
The story is set in New Orleans, which is the currently the site for the corporation’s trials. The city is rife with crime, and the police is unable to fight off super-powered criminals since the pill is being circulated like meth.
Enter Art (Jamie Foxx), who was among soldiers on whom the drug was tested first. Now, his daughter has been kidnapped and kept for testing since she has latent powers due to her father’s genes. He is on a mission to get his daughter back and is looking for any lead that would get him to the top.
Robin (Dominique Fishback) is a lowly, teenage peddler of the pill. She is in this illicit business because of the money she desperately needs due to her mother’s illness. One of her customers is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s cop Frank, who believes superpowered-criminals can be challenged only with superpowers.
Art, Robin and Frank team up eventually to free the former’s daughter and put an end to the corporation and all the superpower pill business.
While its premise sounds interesting, Project Power is sadly crammed with action-movie cliches. Art is the typical, poker-faced tough guy, a black John McClane, who even super-powered individuals are not able to stop. Robin is Art’s solid, good-hearted sidekick who tags along with him even though it would certainly put her in danger. Frank is a policeman who reluctantly joins forces with a criminal because his higher-ups in the police force are hand-in-hand with the bad guys.
I was hoping the film would do something substantial with the temporary superpower dynamic. But those who consumed the pill seemingly stayed superhuman for as long as the plot demanded, though the movie says explicitly the powers last for five minutes.
It is the technical aspects — action, visuals and sounds — and performances that save the film. The fights, which occur as often as you would expect in a loud action movie like this, are neatly choreographed and thumping sound effects complement the visuals well. This is another of those Netflix movies that you wish you saw on the big screen.
We do not see actual superpowers too many times in Project Power, but when a man does turn into something resembling MCU’s Hulk or another man’s bones break out of the skin to form knives, or when somebody early on in the movie lights his body on fire, the effects look breathtaking and realistic — or what passes for realistic in superhero cinema.
All three leads deliver pretty solid performances. Foxx and Gordon-Levitt are great, and I want a Lethal Weapon starring these actors now. Fishback is a true revelation, and at its core, the movie is about her. She is the heart of the movie, and the actor knocks it out of the park.
Project Power is a strange beast. On the one hand, it appears to be trying to critique the superhero culture; on the other, it undermines that aspect by showing superpowers in favourable light. Yet, it ends up being way more entertaining than it has a right to be.
Project Power is streaming on Netflix.
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