Review: Project Power (2020)
There was a lot of potential here, and while I don't want to say it was squandered it definitely wasn't fully realized.
Project Power is a Netflix action/crime film that orbits around the superhero genre and if it came out about 10 years ago we would all have fond memories of it today. Now that we live in a post Avengers Endgame world though, it's mostly just a quaint little crime story that happens to feature superhero special effects that are done well.
Yeah that's a pretty good fire guy. Good job.
The core plot centers around a rogue group of scientists that have introduced a drug called 'Power' to New Orleans. People who take the drug get five minutes of an unlocked random power depending on their genes. Chaos ensues.
The story revolves around three characters: Robin (Dominique Fishback), a drug dealer trying to take care of her sick mother, Officer Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is trying to fight back against powered crime, and Art (Jamie Foxx), a former soldier searching for his daughter. Fishback steals the majority of the show, while Jamie Foxx's plot is the center push which kind of makes him the main character? And Gordon-Levitt's character is just sort of there. He does stuff and pushes some of the plot along, but essentially he's kind of the same character as he was in Dark Knight Rises with less relevance to the plot.
While Foxx's plot serves to push the story forward and Fishback's arc serves to underscore a number of moral and ethical dilemmas set up by this plot, the whole package suffers from a lack of focus that could have possibly been served by having a memorable antagonist. Because for the bulk of the film we have this guy:
Generic Scientist Drug Boss (Rodrigo Santoro) answers to Bland White Boss Lady Scientist(Amy Landecker), and I think they had names but the story didn't do anything to make me care. On one hand I can see why they may have done that as they're representatives of the system that doesn't give a crap about people. But this is essentially a superhero story, and you need an effective villain or villains to tie the themes and plots together. Besides these two, we get Punchy McStrongGuy, Nude Invisi-Thief, FireTwit, BoneyBoy, and....who am I forgetting....oh yeah Bendy Flexerson. He's flexible.
The fun aspect is that the drug unlocks dormant powers in your system that are familiar traits we see in the animal world. Gordon-Levitt gets diamond hard skin. The bendy guy can pop his joints like a mouse to fit into places. So on and so on, which means we have some intriguing possibilities. Unfortunately we don't have that much time, so for the most part we get the basic power sets of strength, invulnerability, and so on. The best pay off is that we're teased with the idea of the Pistol Shrimp power set, and then we actually get it.
One of the strengthens of the script and plot is that it does not at all depend on any romance. This is a story of three very different people who having very little in common but unite, which is a bit refreshing. It's the missed ethical debates that are gleaned at but then tucked away in service of the action movie. Gordon-Levitt's character is a cop who buys the Power drug from Fishback and therefore supports her illegal activities. It's all in the service of a greater good but......let's maybe talk a bit more about the good cop buying drugs from a minor?
While this movie could have done more, I'm not entirely sure I wanted it to. It would have needed a complete rework and go on for another half hour to actually be relevant, and honestly I was kind of fine with it just being an action vehicle for Jamie Foxx to eat up 2hrs of time. Which sort of begs the question, am I partly culpable for not having a higher standard for a movie? The sad thing is, I think I'm going to get more pondering about that implication than I did from the movie.
For the most part I will pretty much forget about it by the end of year. It's just another victim of the oversaturated action/adventure/superhero genre, lacking the innovation and energy to push it beyond into something else and just a little too late in the game to rely solely on its style.