Set in New Orleans and exploring elements of its underworld, the story revolves around the rise of a new super-drug called Power, which gives its users 5 minutes of superhuman strength and abilities. The degree and nature of said abilities depends on the user, with instant death being a potential side effect, and when a NOPD officer named Frank (Gordon-Levitt) is suspended for using the drug in order to level the playing field with junkie criminals, he finds himself teamed up with a young dealer (Dominique Fishback) and Art (Foxx), a mysterious figure suspected of being the source of Power.
What ensues is a complex and intricate plot that plays like a buddy-cop movie infused with a graphic novel aesthetic. Overdosing characters, abductions, private contracts and clinical testing are just some of the motifs explored in the script, which in fact, render Project Power‘s narrative so crammed and woven that it becomes too convoluted for its own good.
This is not to say that the film is impossible to follow, and there is no question that some will consider it to be an intellectual take on a seemingly fatigued genre. “Refreshing” and “audacious” are words I anticipate reading in response to the film, however, for this particular writer, the discrepancy between directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s (Nerve, Viral) ambitious vision and their ultimate execution is far too great.
The immediate impression is a handsome production, with polished cinematography and well-controlled technical choreography. The camera moves gracefully throughout the action and with those bold graphic-novel musings it’s easy to lose sight of the film’s failings. For all of the colours and slick production designs, there’s an abundance of awful digital work on display. The computer-generated effects are average to say the least, and because there’s so much of it, one can be forgiven for not registering just how subpar it all is. Furthermore, Joost and Schulman are so focused on the spectacle that they neglect the drama.
As stated earlier, Gordon-Levitt does fit the action formula perfectly and he adds much needed weight to the movie. From his exciting entrance, which pits him against a gang of thugs, to his buddy-interactions with Foxx, he solidifies his place within the genre and gives reason for studios to pursue him for bigger-budgeted projects.
Foxx, on the other hand, finds himself pigeonholed and typecast. With the better part of the last decade padded with mediocre sequels and remakes like Horrible Bosses 2, Annie and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a film such as this ought to have been a re-launch, but the opportunity is squandered with more of the same lacklustre drivel that sees him fall further towards DTV-land.
Thankfully, Dominique Fishback (The Duece) is a refreshing adage to the cast, giving a performance that meets Gordon-Levitt’s head on, while outshining Foxx in turn. Her presence comes with a sense of experience, helping Levitt to bolster the film beyond its measure.
Project Power deserves gratitude for offering an intriguing and inspired concept, but isn’t positioned well enough to garner any further praise. Being that it is presented as a Netflix Original, there isn’t any loss to those viewers with a subscription (aside from loss of time) and others might be more forgiving than myself. Let’s hope, however, that we don’t become complacent with streaming services and their “original” content, because in today’s Covid world with limited theatrical opportunities, we rely on these platforms more than ever for quality entertainment.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★✩✩✩
‘Project Power’ is now streaming on Netflix right HERE.