The concept behind the brand new Netflix film Project Power is extremely potent. In the world of the film, superpowers aren’t one thing you’re born with, or acquire by way of a chunk from a radioactive spider. They come from tablets that activate the consumer’s hidden energy for 5 minutes. What’s extra, no person is aware of what superpower they’ll have till they take the tablet — at which level, a couple of unfortunate customers simply explode into a multitude of blood and guts.
The excessive of taking the drug — referred to as Power — is represented by Requiem for a Dream-esque splashes of shade and cells that final for cut up seconds, an impact that’s a useful metaphor for Project Power itself. Directed by Catfish’s Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman from a script by The Batman’s Mattson Tomlin, Project Power’s burst of shade comes from its central conceit and Joost and Schulman’s sense of fashion. It’s shiny and enticing, nevertheless it fizzles out rapidly. Tomlin’s concept is revolutionary, however the story he tells with it’s drained.
Project Power protagonist Robin (Dominique Fishback) is a group of clichés: She’s a excessive schooler and would-be rapper who offers medication with the intention to take care of her ailing mom. She works with Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a cop, to assist him control who’s shopping for what, in addition to to provide him with Power. While the police are cracking down on Power use and distribution within the metropolis, Frank sees the drug as leveling the enjoying discipline in opposition to criminals, because it makes him bulletproof. And Art (Jamie Foxx), a mysterious former soldier, crashes into each of their lives when he kidnaps Robin in an try to get to Power’s supply.
Their race to cease Power from being extensively distributed and wreaking havoc is pretty formulaic. So is the revelation that Art is searching for his kidnapped daughter, which immediately bonds him with the fatherless Robin. Meanwhile, Frank is compelled to reckon with the truth that the police division would possibly, actually, be corrupt.
Just a few scenes and particulars stand out: one character’s energy turns him right into a model of the Human Torch, which makes him a lethal foe, but additionally leaves him with extreme burns. On high of that, the superpowers are given an intriguing supply: the entire powers are primarily based in nature, mimicking an armadillo’s shell or a lizard’s functionality for regeneration. But the standout moments are uncommon. Tomlin’s script finally ends up virtually ignoring Power’s Limitless issue — the five-minute ticking clock and the concept of having the ability to attain extraordinary skills by way of prescribed drugs — because the story juggles social commentary with superhero antics.
Project Power takes place in New Orleans, and there are a couple of veiled references to Hurricane Katrina and the federal government’s poor emergency response, in addition to the opioid disaster and the systemic disadvantages confronted by Black ladies. But they’re solely references — makes an attempt at depth belied by Robin’s facile characterization. They’re by no means by no means expanded upon previous the shallow introduction of the preliminary ideas. (It’s value noting that the movie’s administrators, producers, and author are all white.)
Joost and Schulman are fortunate, as such, that Project Power is excessive on star energy, as Fishback (simply the standout of HBO’s The Deuce), Foxx, and (to a lesser extent) Gordon-Levitt make the caricatures they’re enjoying compelling by way of sheer charisma. Fishback’s confidence provides her character a liveliness that extends previous her stereotypical background, and Foxx’s appeal turns him right into a extra endearing model of Liam Neeson’s schticky Taken character.
Just a few inventively staged scenes assist transfer issues alongside — one battle is seen solely by way of a pane of slowly freezing glass — and the jittery camerawork makes Project Power really feel grittier than its extra mainstream counterparts. But essentially the most attention-grabbing side of Power — the time frame when the drug was first launched, when folks with superpowers had been working round willy-nilly — is relegated to a “six weeks later” time skip. Power is meant to be uncontrollable, however the story takes place in a world which largely appears to have figured it out. Almost everybody already appears to know what their energy is, and the best way to successfully use the tablet. Only a choose few anonymous peons cope with the danger of exploding.
The finish of Project Power units up a sequel, however that is the uncommon case the place a prequel could be extra worthwhile. The unpredictability of the film’s superpowers is what makes them new and attention-grabbing, however Project Power launches into part of the timeline that renders them partially moot. In a film the place the idea ought to be the factor, the celebrities find yourself saving the present, smoothing over the script’s clumsy makes an attempt at addressing race, and bringing sufficient star energy to the display to no less than briefly obscure the movie’s hole heart.
Project Power is streaming on Netflix now.