Movie Review: Project Power
Project Power is about Robin, a low level dealer of the new craze, Power, which gives the user a unique superpower for five minutes. She interacts with police detective Frank as he uses the drug to get on a level playing field with the criminals and find out why the feds put a hamper on any investigation the police try in connection to the drug. She also is enlisted by Art, a mysterious player who only wants his daughter back after she is kidnapped by the forces behind the drug. The film stars Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback, Rodrigo Santoro, Machine Gun Kelly, Amy Landecker, and Courtney B. Vance. It is directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman and written by Mattson Tomlin. The film is streaming exclusively on Netflix.
It seems even our police procedurals need to be tied in some way to the superpowers game. I tried to imagine this film without that element and it still could work in many ways except for the invisible naked man and the man who becomes grotesquely large. Though, work is an operative word because it really doesn't work for me on any level. I have more questions than answers. The biggest one is, why?
Let me narrow that down. Why, when you have a trained soldier who can kick major ass, do many of the fight scenes happen from a strange angle or too tight of a shot for it to make sense visually? Some of the scenes were strangely lit as well. In one scene, I couldn't figure out which side or group was shooting at who, which made it far more confusing. In that scene as well, there's a shift in perspective where we are placed inside of a containment unit with a woman having an adverse effect from the drug and only see bits of the ass kicking Art is laying on the bad guys. It was unnerving to be with a screaming woman for a minute or so and so distracting that I could barely pay attention to the snippets of action outside the unit while squirming uncomfortably waiting for the perspective to change away from the woman screaming in pain.
The other whys come directly from the story. Not a hell of a lot is clearly explained as to why certain things are happening. I get that New Orleans is a test group for this experimental drug, but the nebulous blame placed on "the government," is confusing. Why would "the government" want to sew chaos in the United States in order to attract investors from drug cartels? Why would "the government" allow for any kind of true scientific break through, which may eventually help people? If the dealers are reaping the entire profit from this enterprise, who is paying for the manufacture, distribution, and marketing? My best guess to all of these is that the story was a means to play with the premise and it really doesn't matter how it all got to this point.
I'm into a story with a McGuffin. I like when an action film can focus on character and the story is secondary. Yet, this film doesn't even have intriguing characters. They're archetypes without real personalities. They're quip machines or unstoppable forces both in reality or just as a means toward story necessity. The only character I really liked was Robin. She was the only one who seemed to have an inner life. In a great scene she is challenged by her health teacher to rap in order to save her grade and after she gets a beat from a classmate, she lays down an incredible dis on the teacher, but when the scene abruptly cuts, we know it was a fantasy. That tells a lot about this character and shows the versatility of actress Dominique Fishback, who is making her mark.
The charisma of Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, though couldn't save their characters for me. Foxx oozes charisma, but when everything else around him is just charmless, there's nothing for his charm to work against. It's especially true when he starts throwing a teenager around and physically dominating her. Same with Gordon-Levitt, he has immense talent, but his tough guy cop routine doesn't work. He especially seems unbelievable as a "not in my town," kind of cop.
Like a lot of modern action/superpowers films, Project Power loses focus because it attempts to serve two main storylines at once. It's rare that a film can pull off that many perspectives when the investigations the two characters are making are so disconnected from one another. This film had potential and some cool visuals, but it falls flat in execution. I don't recommend spending the time to turn this one on.