CINEMASCOPE: POWER PUNCH

23 Aug 2020

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Project Power has something in common with many of the action films released on Netflix of late; it focuses heavily on an interesting concept at the expense of the rest of the film.

The premise, which feels like it is torn from a video game, is that there’s a pill in this world called ‘Power’ that can grant you unpredictable superpowers for exactly five minutes. You can have super strength, extraordinary speed, invulnerability, freezing powers, or any other superpower, after taking this pill. However, if you overdo it, you could die, like Newt (Colson Baker), a drug dealer based in a futuristic New Orleans, who gains the ability to catch fire — such as Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four — until he pushes himself too far.

As you can imagine, this drug is in high demand. Newt’s cousin, Robin (Dominique Fishback), an aspiring rapper and a Power drug dealer herself, is rescued by New Orleans Police Department Officer Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) from those consumers hooked on the drug. Interestingly, Frank is her customer too. Power gives him invulnerability by hardening his skin and making him bulletproof.

Project Power feels like it was taken out of the oven before it was fully cooked but is still worth watching for its unique take on the superhero genre

Although Frank has been using Power to stop the bad guys, he gets into trouble with his superiors for using the drug. He later learns that there’s a conspiracy to let Power flow into the streets. Here, he investigates Art/The Major (Jamie Foxx), one of the first people to use Power.

Fortunately, Art is one of the good guys, even if his means are questionable. He kidnaps Robin in order to get to the source of Power. After taking on a drug cartel, we learn that Power users in New Orleans are guinea pigs and that Art, a former soldier, was hired by a defense contractor that experimented on him. Now, he looks for his daughter Tracy (Kyanna Simone Simpson), who was born with a superpower because of the experimentation. However, her abilities are innate, and she doesn’t need pills to use her powers.

Soon, Art, Robin and Frank team up to take on the baddies in an action-packed film.

While the concept of the film feels unique and interesting on paper, it’s not as cohesive on screen. Although the script by Mattson Tomlin is decent, it feels like it could have used more work. There are some continuity issues, half-baked subplots, under-used characters, and other issues with the narrative that make the writing feel a little rushed.

Project Power is an entertaining thriller with plenty of high-octane action scenes that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Some of the writing feels sharp and surprisingly deep while other elements come across as silly and far too clichéd. The film also has tonal issues. Some of the film is surprisingly dark and grounded, while the rest is goofy, with forced unfunny humour. The tonal issues make for a weird watch and should have never made it on screen.

However, the performances are particularly good. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dominique Fishback are very watchable in their supporting roles, while Jamie Foxx is excellent as the star. While I wish the film had done more with the Power concept, there is a lot of creativity on screen and it’s fun to watch.

Project Power is an entertaining thriller with plenty of high-octane action scenes that will leave you on the edge of your seat. However, by the time it all ends, the film feels a little underwhelming, like other films on the platform due to the unrealised potential of the uneven script. Like so many films on Netflix, Project Power feels like it was taken out of the oven before it was fully cooked. Still, the film is worth its 114 minutes runtime, if for its unique twist on the superhero genre alone.

Rated R for violence, bloody images, drug content and some language

Published in Dawn, ICON, August 23rd, 2020