While it’s hard to ignore any movie with actors like Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in lead roles, Netflix’s Project Power has received more attention than it normally might thanks to a script which was penned by The Batman co-writer Mattson Tomlin. With this being his first major project, there’s a lot of interest surrounding what he’ll bring to the table, and his take on superpowers is definitely unique, but ultimately bogged down by a few too many clichés.
The premise of people taking an illegal drug to gain superpowers (what they get is completely down to fate) is a fun one, and you’ll quickly find yourself getting caught up in Art’s (Foxx) mission to rescue his daughter, cop Frank Shaver using “Power” to become bulletproof while on the job, and dealer/talented rapper Robin’s (Dominique Fishback) role in both their lives. Unfortunately, it’s as we reach the final act that the movie struggles to bring these characters together in a satisfying way, and we’re left with a typical, slightly overlong series of action set-pieces for a rescue mission that never really brings anything new to the table. In fact, aside from the relatively unique setting, it hits all the expected beats, from a brutal fight in a corridor to someone hiding in a closet from their pursuers, and a guy tied to a chair intimidating the people keeping him captive.
Early on, it feels like Project Power is going to tackle some hard-hitting questions about the way the government treats the working class, but that’s touched on only on a surface level. With two Black leads, race is handled in a sensitive, often empowering way, and a lot of the movie feels quite timely, as a result. Henry Joost (Paranormal Activity 3, 4) and Ariel Schulman (Catfish: The TV Show) certainly make for a unique directing duo, and there are plenty of moments of brilliance, including some strong action scenes, and well-handled exchanges between characters. In many ways, the movie is at its weakest when visual effects come into play, and going OTT with the superpowers makes this grounded world feel more like an episode of The Flash than a meaningful glimpse into a world not all that different from our own.
On the plus side, Jamie Foxx is as fantastic as ever, and his performance really helps drive Project Power. Even when he’s taken down some darker paths, Art is someone you can root for, and the actor gives this ex-soldier a lot of emotional depth. Levitt’s role honestly could have been played by anyone as he’s only really given a handful of opportunities to share his trademark wit and charm, while Rodrigo Santoro and Courtney B. Vance are sadly wasted (the movie fails to deliver anything even closely resembling a decent villain). The true standout, however, has to be Fishback; if nothing else, Project Power serves as a great launching platform for the young actress because while she’s impressed on television, this marks one of her most noteworthy film roles to date.
Netflix’s latest Original movie feels like, well, a Netflix movie, but it’s far from terrible and there are some fleeting moments of greatness throughout. The premise is unique enough to grab your attention, and the cast help elevate the material even when it ventures down some familiar paths. It’s certainly not a groundbreaking or overly fresh take on superpowers, and the quality definitely dips upon the emergence of a massive CGI baddie, but a weak final act isn’t enough to write this one off. Ultimately, there’s just a little too much going on, and while Project Power has franchise potential, whether you’ll want to return to this world might depend on what you’ve come to expect from the genre.
Project Power boasts superb performances from Jamie Foxx and Dominique Fishback, but fails to live up to its potential and mostly squanders a unique and exciting premise despite some strong visuals and clever ideas.
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