The 400-Word Review: Project Power
By Sean Collier
August 14, 2020
The gambit in “Project Power,” Netflix’s shiny action spectacle, is that the audience will be willing to accept 90 minutes of cliche in exchange for 25 minutes of vivid superhero fantasy.
It’s not a bad bet; we’ve taken that deal in many also-ran superhero flicks. The flaw in this case is that the premise is simply too interesting.
The film centers around pills that grant five minutes of unexpected superpowers. The user doesn’t know if they’ll receive super strength or invulnerability or a command of fire — or, in rare cases, if they’ll simply explode — until they try the drug.
It’s a rich nugget of an idea. Unfortunately, it also renders the vast majority of the film, which proceeds mostly as a procedural, dull; why do we care about this round of characters when we could be watching a game of superpower roulette?
The players: Robin (Dominique Fishback) is a high-school student selling the drug — she’s got a hook-up via her no-good cousin, Newt (Colson Baker) — to help pay for her mother’s medication. One of her clients is a cop, Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who takes the drug to even the playing field against superpower-enhanced crooks. His boss (Courtney B. Vance) says the source of the trouble is Art (Jamie Foxx), a mysterious underworld figure.
Art isn’t running the show, however; he’s also trying to fight his way up the food chain, searching for his kidnapped daughter, who’s tied up in the sordid mess. As the paths of Robin, Frank and Art converge, they’ll end up stepping on a lot of toes and getting into a half-dozen or so brief, if vivid, battles.
All of that, of course, is no different from dozens of other police procedurals. Nearly every scene where someone doesn’t turn into an off-brand Hulk or Human Torch is rote, from Robin imagining a smackdown of her arrogant teacher to Frank grousing over federal meddling in local jurisdiction. It might’ve helped if directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman had at least given the film’s New Orleans setting the freedom to flavor the proceedings, but no such luck; other than references to Saints games, it could be anywhere else.
It’s not a dreadful watch; you’ll likely stay on the couch to see what happens to the next person who swallows a pill. It is, however, a disappointment; why squander a cool concept on an unremarkable film?
My Rating: 5/10
“Project Power” is streaming on Netflix.