Project Power (2020) – Film Review

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Limitless meets X-Men in Netflix’s latest stuttering attempt to kickstart its own franchise with Project Power. A movie that will have you googling pistol shrimp after the credits roll. Seriously.

When a pill that gives its users unpredictable superpowers for five minutes hits the streets of New Orleans, a teenage dealer and a local cop must team with an ex-soldier to take down the group responsible for its creation.

Here is a film where the guy who could have become the Nolanverse Batman teams up with someone called Robin. Then Jamie Foxx turns up to tell kids to stay off drugs and that your true superpower is rapping.

It is established that whoever takes the drug it is essentially playing Russian Roulette. They could gain superhuman strength, speed or invisibility. Or they could die in a gruesome way as their body rejects the drug.

In a way it is a metaphor for the film. On paper, the idea and script from The Batman scribe Mattson Tomlin has potential. Unfortunately in the wrong hands, it is an ugly misfire.

It could have been a study into the effects of a shadowy government agency using the lower classes and criminal underbelly of New Orleans as lab rats for a dangerous new drug. Particularly given the city’s history with the government following Hurricane Katrina. Instead it focuses on the Hollywood staple of a surrogate father-daughter storyline. Directors Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman also drop social commentary and subtlety in favour of frenetic camerawork and messy, leaden action sequences.

It is also confusing as hell. In X-Men, the person’s ability is triggered through a heightened emotional state or moment of trauma. Here it appears as thought the Power pill is unlocking that potential. Seemingly random but unique to each individual. However it is later revealed that the powers are derived from the abilities of animals and humans can access the same genetic ability. For example a chameleon using its surroundings to become invisible or the Wolverine frog that turns its bones into weapons. One almost expected them to have a Catfish pill that could allow the user to shapeshift into someone else. The directors also made the 2010 documentary Catfish.

What this film really needed was someone to gain the superpower of exposition to help make sense of it all and clue the audience in to the logic and rules behind the drug and its real world execution.

Foxx is a charismatic screen presence as always and Gordon-Levitt once again plays the cop with an unshakeable sense of honour. They do their best with limited means to inject some life and passion into the movie’s bloodstream. It is just a shame that the film conspires to keep their plot strands separate until the final act which then rushes itself to the point of stumbling and fails to nail the superhero landing.

Like a man gaining superspeed for five minutes, this interesting concept runs out of steam quickly and ultimately Project Power is one drug that doesn’t work.

Project Power is available to stream on Netflix now.

Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback, Rodrigo Santoro
Runtime: 111 minutes
Country: USA

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