I’m willing to bet just about every kid thinks about how awesome it would be to have a superpower. I know I did, wanting either to fly or be invisible. But, as a comic book reader and genre fan, the desire to be super-powered didn’t leave my mind; it only evolved. As an adult, my preferred superpower would be to control time. And as anti-pharma, as I am, a few years back, I thought to myself, “It’d be interesting if there were a pill that could give you superpowers.” Alas, I wasn’t the first cat to have such a notion. Nor was I clever enough to expand that thought into an actual story.
However, screenwriter Mattson Tomlin did just that with his screenplay for Netflix’s newest genre mashup film, Project Power. The title refers to the name of the latest drug on the streets of New Orleans. One pop of a pill full of Power and the user gains a sole superpower for five minutes. But, as with every drug, Power has a drawback. See, every individual obtains a different power, and they have no control over what super ability they’ll receive upon consuming the pill.
Unsurprisingly, this innovative pill is wreaking havoc in NOLA. Furthermore, like any destructive drug, Power has ramifications on the lives of many. One of whom is former soldier, Art (Jamie Foxx), who has made his way to the city in search of his daughter, who has been kidnapped by the criminal enterprise responsible for designing Power. Meanwhile, NOPD officer Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is trying to keep his jurisdiction safe while evening the playing with help from a local teen drug dealer named Robin (Dominique Fishback). Soon enough, these three respective paths collide as they team-up to attempt to stop the proliferation of Power!
Project Power is, unfortunately, and perhaps, appropriately, akin to prescription medication in that it offers such potential promise but has inherent negative qualities. For a film that sports such a unique premise, Project Power proves to be nothing more than a genre mashup. The movie in review collides the subgenres of superheroes; a protagonist with a vendetta; cops in a corrupt city, and a coming of age story altogether, as it does its characters. Thus, what it becomes is a stale cinematic cocktail of genre pictures we’ve all seen before, topped off with a low dose of originality.
As a result, Project Power is well-made by directing duo Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) and is an entirely entertaining, albeit, ridiculously predictable one-time watch. I’d even call Power a safe-bet for the much desired four-quadrant audience. Despite the film’s R-rating and drug content, it chooses not to embrace the darkness of its tone or setting. These same choices trickledown to its highly talented cast. Two-thirds of whom bring nothing new to the table. Foxx is doing his hero on a vendetta shtick for the umpteenth time. Meanwhile, Gordon-Levitt feels like he’s merely playing the more laidback Southern cousin of his character in The Dark Knight Rises (2012). However, young Dominique Fishback is fantastic as she disappears into her role.
Project Power will please most folks who watch it. However, I was disappointed that the movie in review ends up being so safe and derivative. I’ll take more originality and more significant visual effects budget any day. In the end, I can’t push Power, but it’s not so bad that you need to flush it down your toilet, either.
Project Power is currently available to stream on Netflix.