PROJECT POWER (NETFLIX) (2020)
SYNOPSIS: What would you risk for five minutes of pure power? On the streets of New Orleans, word begins to spread about a mysterious new pill that unlocks superpowers unique to each user. The catch: You don’t know what will happen until you take it. While some develop bulletproof skin, invisibility, and super strength, others exhibit a deadlier reaction. But when the pill escalates crime within the city to dangerous levels, a local cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) teams with a teenage dealer (Dominique Fishback) and a former soldier fueled by a secret vendetta (Jamie Foxx) to fight power with power and risk taking the pill in order to track down and stop the group responsible for creating it.
Project Power is basically X-Men Lite if you want a concise one-sentence review. The only catch is you need to first swallow a pill and the superpower only lasts for 5 minutes.
In the opening sequence, a group of street dealers in New Orleans are given a batch of power pills by a mysterious distributor. Their job is to distribute the pills to those seeking superpowers. Robin (Dominique Fishback), a teenage dealer is drawn to the fiasco who needs the money for her diabetes-stricken mom. Then there is her friend, a good-hearted cop, Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is out to nab those who abused the pills to commit crimes in the city. In comes Art (Jamie Foxx), the supposedly creator of the pills who came to New Orleans in search of his missing daughter, Tracy.
Remember movies liked Limitless, Chronicle and Jumper? The concept in Project Power is nothing new. The script by Mattson Tomlin (the co-writer of next year’s Batman reboot) offers lots of interesting ideas and possibilities. A pill that offers you 5 minutes of superpower? Great. Some random pills might cause you to self-explode instead. That sucks. Project Power merely scratches the surface of this very interesting premise. Rather than a piece of thought-provoking social commentary, it quickly turned into a fast-paced, high energy actioner.
To be fair, it’s a cool mix of old school gritty cop thriller and modern-day superhero clichés. Newcomer Dominique Fishback often steals the limelight from her veteran co-stars Foxx and Gordon-Levitt. She also stands out given her excellent rapping skills. As the central character, Foxx delivers an impressive performance together with the underrated Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Both showing a lot of sweating, running and fighting, trying damn hard to save New Orleans from undercooked villains.
There’s probably a reason why Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are hired for the directing gig. If you watched Nerve, you know why. Project Power has the same aesthetic and energy as the latter. The action sequences are violent and flashy. The visual effects are mostly decent since most audiences would have seen it before on the big screen a dozen times. Though I must add there is one standout cinematography sequence that featured exhilarating effects and fights that took place in a darkly lit pub.
In the grand tradition of Netflix’s recent releases such as Extraction, The Old Guard and 6 Underground, Project Power is yet another mindless, action-packed title added to the streamer giant. While the story deserves more polishing, it’s still highly entertaining given the lavish production values. Those cheap VOD titles better watch out and up their game. Netflix means serious business and it’s not going to last for a mere 5 minutes.
Review by Linus Tee