It has been over months since the last film by DC or Marvel hit the theatres. Production companies are trying their best to offer an alternative, Netflix is no different. After The Old Guard, Netflix is back with Project Power, unfortunately, another mediocre superhero sci-fi flick that could have been great.
A mysterious new pill that gives its consumers a unique but unpredictable superpower hits the streets of New Orleans. It can give them powers like superstrength, invincibility, invisibility or quite simply blow them up. Every pill is a gamble.
When the pill causes crime in the city to rise, a local cop, Frank (Joseph Gordon Levitt) teams up with a teenage drug dealer, Robin (Dominique Fishback) to find and stop the people responsible for its production.
On their quest to find the manufacturers, the duo teams up with an ex-soldier, Art (Jamie Foxx), whose daughter has been abducted by the same people.
Joseph Gordon Levitt is back after a long time and fortunately, the break from acting hasn’t made him rusty. He is, once again, excellent and an absolute delight to watch. He is effortlessly charming in one scene and a caring father figure in the next.
Jamie Foxx relies on his natural charisma to guide him to the end of the film. Project Power requires him to play the angry father with a kidnapped daughter cliche, which he does as well as one could.
Dominique Fishback is also great as Robin, the appropriately named sidekick to Frank and Art.
The directors, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, competently helm the film. Project Power is fast, heightened and jittery, which is stylistically similar to their previous film, Nerve (2016). They have come a long way from their early ventures when they made films like Paranormal Activity 3 and 4.
The cinematography by Michael Simmonds, who previously collaborated with Joost and Schulman on Nerve and Irrfan Khan’s critically acclaimed, The Lunchbox (2013), is, mostly, gorgeous. The prolonged use of handheld and moving shots along with the great set design and colour grading make the film feel alive and an absolute treat to watch.
Jeff McEvoy, who also edited Nerve, ensures that Project Power is crisp and never loses momentum.
For some inexplicable reason, the film features renowned YouTuber, Casey Neistat, and rapper, Machine Gun Kelly, in minor roles. The cameos seem out of place and unnecessary.
For the most part, Simmonds shot the film well, but some action sequences use shaky cam, the bane of today’s actions films, excessively. It did not seem like a stylistic choice, rather it seemed that it was used to hide poor action choreography. Also, the CGI was cartoonish at several points in the film.
However, Project Power’s biggest issue is that its script could not tap into its potential. Mattson Tomlin, who is currently working on the next Batman film, writes an unoriginal and messy story for a premise with great possibilities. The script seems unpolished and premature and is riddled with coincidences and plot conveniences . It could have used a few more rewrites, to say the least.
Robin, the teenage drug dealer’s storyline, especially, seems absolutely unnecessary and unrelated in hindsight. Art, the ex-soldier with the abducted daughter, is just a worn-out character trope that Hollywood should discard by now. Frank, the local cop, is the only character with some depth. The antagonists are just run-of-the-mill bad guys with no personality.
All three lead characters seem disjointed. Project Power could have benefitted from having a single protagonist instead of awkwardly trying to accommodate all three.
The fact that there was a bidding war over the script of Project Power seems unbelievable. After watching Tomlin absolutely waste his resources here, the fact that he has written the script for Matt Reeves’ upcoming film, The Batman, is concerning.
Films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: Ragnorok, show us that the superhero genre can still be reinvented to give us quality films.
Unfortunately, Project Power is just another in the endless barrage of unremarkable superhero action films that plague Hollywood. If you’re looking for a below-average action flick to kill your time, this is it.