Another week, another attempt to start a franchise. It’s all the rage, after all, so why not jump on the bandwagon and see what happens – who knows, you may be lucky and strike gold and your money-making series will be born. Netflix, ever the looming behemoth that has grown ever more in 2020, has tried before to do it (see Bright and 6 Underground, for example) but hasn’t really cracked it despite some of its films getting sequels. Its newest attempt is Project Power, a dizzying, disorientating action/sci-fi/superhero mishmash that its placing their bets on.
A spec script that prompted a bidding war in 2017, Project Power is the brainchild of writer Mattson Tomlin and valiantly tries to mix all of those fanciful genres while birthing a new comic-book-esque thriller that will tickle the fancy of fans of all those larger-than-life heroes. Power, as you’re asking, is a revolutionary pill manufactured after years of human trials to help accentuate human DNA and allow the taker to experience five minutes of their unique power – quick healing, super speed, fire, enhanced physical strength et al.
Subsequently, and inevitably, an underground sanction has taken hold of the drug and started illegal activities, including kidnapping the daughter of Art (Jamie Foxx) who is driven to get her back, with the help of New Orleans cop Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and young local dealer Robin (Dominique Fishback) So, its X-Men, you might ask? Pretty close, yes.
Slickly directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost (Paranormal Activity 3), Power has all the hallmarks of a superhero extravaganza with a big splash of The Matrix and Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade thrown in for good measure. Cameras swoop, shake, bend, traverse and loop as we follow the noisy action that packs a punch to begin with but loses its impetuous and its gimmick rather quickly. It’s bold, loud and proud when it’s good but when it’s not, it’s painfully dull.
Foxx and Gordon-Levitt bring their usual panache to proceedings, elevating it above other similar fare, but their talents can only do so much and they become as lost as the audience heading towards its manic final act. Kudos to Joost & Schulman for trying to be inventive and clever with the film and they do a decent job but the idea itself is so thin and predictable that like their cast, their powers only stretch so far.
Tomlin has co-written The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, with Matt Reeves and if he can hone his obvious talents we are in for an even bigger treat than we anticipate. As a calling card though, Project Power has a severe lack of it and while he tries to tackle themes of identity, conformity and disillusionment as well the political, social and economical impacts of such a drug, they rarely penetrate.
Thriller, Crime, Sci-fi | Netflix | 14 August 2020 | Dir. Henry Joost, Arial Schulman | Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback, Rodrigo Santoro.