Project Power

Don’t do drugs, kids.

Netflix has a rather inconsistent track record with their original films. Some are excellent (Marriage Story, The Irishman), some are fine (The Old Guard) and some are abysmal (Bright). But, in general, Netflix provide good quality content in exchange for your hard-earned pennies. Their latest original feature, Project Power, falls into the same category as The Old Guard – offering a good time, but not much else.

The film revolves around a new street drug called Power which gives the pill-popper superpowers for a limited five minute period. Sounds pretty good, right? Think again, because there is no guarantee what powers the funky little pill will deliver – these range from becoming bulletproof, raging with fire, or potentially exploding on the spot. Project Power follows three leads; the streetwise youngster Robin (Dominique Fishback) who tries to support her sick mother by dealing Power, Art (Jamie Foxx) who is on the hunt for his missing daughter, and Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a cop who desperately wants to protect his city from any harm caused by the drug.

There isn’t much more to Project Power’s plot, making it feel like a cool concept rather than a film with a proper, fleshed-out narrative. It’s a fun idea and the film is certainly entertaining, but there’s never a sense of a bigger picture, although it still manages to slyly set up potential sequels and a larger franchise.

The film’s main strength are its phenomenal actors. Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings much of his natural charisma to the screen and it’s exciting to see the usually family-friendly actor kick and punch his way through the story. Foxx and Fishback have genuine chemistry, and while the script doesn’t allow them to develop it properly, they bring much needed emotion and heart to the otherwise cold film.

Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman inject Project Power with plenty of flashy visuals, but can’t compensate for the general absence of meaning and purpose. All three leads are given a somewhat equal amount of screen time, which works against the film as the audience will struggle to grasp onto and identify with a singular protagonist. Yet the question remains, what is Project Power really about? At times, Art’s search for his daughter takes centre stage, before jumping across to follow a rogue cop protecting his city, with a side story of a young Black girl finding her place in life. All three are engaging and interesting enough in their own right, but Project Power never finds the right balance between these different stories.

The weakest part of Project Power is the script. The film takes time to find its pace after an opening scene hindered by some incredibly awkward dialogue, delivered with very little effort by Rodrigo Santoro. Written by Mattson Tomlin, who also co-wrote the upcoming The Batman, the script lacks nuance and focus as well as believable dialogue. Joseph Trapanese’s pulsating electronic score elevates the action sequences, which are otherwise too messy and edited so rapidly that it’s hard to see what is actually unfolding. There’s brutality in these scenes, but is unable to take centre stage due to being drowned out by the constant fast-cutting between perspectives.

Despite everything that is wrong with Project Power, it remains largely enjoyable and entertaining. A Clint Eastwood joke made yours truly chuckle, and there’s a couple of impressive sequences that showcase the different powers offered by the drug. While the CGI is a little shoddy in places, Project Power somehow gets better with every passing minute, leading up to an all-too-quick, but visually masterful, finale.

Project Power is available on Netflix from August 14.

Maria Lattila

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

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