Project Power is a Run-of-the-Mill Action Film with Strong Performances (and a Unique Premise)
Project Power is one of those films that start to fade from your memory minutes after you have finished watching it. It’s not that it’s a bad film- rather, it’s an aggressively okay film. It takes a good premise and robust cast and creates an adequate action film punctuated by occasional bursts of super powers.
A shadowy government contractor has developed pills that give their users superpowers for five minutes. Everyone develops a different kind of superpower, although some of them simply explode into pieces. Art (Jamie Foxx) is an army veteran who was experimented on by the contractor, who passed on his modifications to his daughter. Once his daughter gets kidnapped and experimented on, he starts to hunt Project Power’s suppliers. He soon comes into contact with a young drug dealer, Robin (Dominique Fishback) and teams up with her. Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a cop that’s also trying to find out the people behind Project Power, eventually crossing paths with Art.
Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish, Nerve, Viral) don’t always focus on elements such as characterization or themes, emphasizing the action instead. Powers are portrayed with a body-horror aesthetic, and there’s a cool scene where the action is shot through a freezing glass tank. Art and Frank have to fight against a variety of pill-popping thugs, from chameleon-like bank robbers to cave trolls and men with bones extending out of their arms.
Jamie Foxx isn’t given much to do, but he’s comfortable and commanding in his role, playing well off Fishback, who makes her somewhat cliched character come alive. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Frank is also treading familiar ground: a cop who wears jerseys and goes rogue to perform his duty. There are also some cameos featuring Machine Gun Kelly and Casey Neistat, which, for their parts, do not feel like they intrude upon the main narrative.
Unlike The Old Guard, which is another Netflix offering that also focuses on superhumans, Project Power rarely takes the time to examine its characters or the thematic cues that are rattled off but never delved into. There’s a scene where Robin raps in freestyle and impresses Art, who tells her that’s her power and she should use it to take on the system. It’s a brief respite in a story that’s mostly driven by its generic plot.
Project Power doesn’t go out of its way to build a universe for future sequels, choosing instead to tell a mostly self-contained story. There isn’t much plot, which, perhaps, is a blessing. Writer Mattison Tomlin (who’s already writing the upcoming Batman film by Matt Reeves) scripts a mostly straight-forward tale, but some beats do not land as well as others. For instance, there’s some friction between Art and Frank at first, but it gets resolved without much tension and then the two of them team up soon after. This makes the friction feel tacky in the first place.
Furthermore, Art’s power is so over-the-top powerful that it makes little sense why he doesn’t use it to easily take care of business instead of using guns. The logic Tomlin invokes is that it’s also hazardous to Art’s health, but even that is solved with the help of his daughter, who’s mostly a deus ex machina in this film.
As it stands, Project Power is a middle-of-the-road film with some decent action and solid acting.
If that floats your boat- and you are looking for a slightly different superhero story- then you just might enjoy the film throughout its nearly two-hour runtime. Just don’t be disappointed when you are left with a feeling of emptiness by the time the film ends. If you’re looking for something more meaningful- and also deals with superpowers- you can wait till The Boys season two arrives in September.