Entertainment » Movies

Review: Super Powers Don't Rescue 'Project Power'

by Derek Deskins
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Aug 14, 2020
'Project Power'
'Project Power'  (Source:Netflix)

While the death of the video rental store resulted in the welcome end of some things (oddly overpriced microwave popcorn, the judgmental gaze of clerks, late fees), it also threatened to destroy the direct-to-video market. As Netflix initiated the demise of in-person video rental, it feels appropriate that they have absorbed direct-to-video as well. But where direct-to-video movies were accepted as the lackluster fare they were, Netflix wants its next iteration (direct-to-streaming) to at least have better branding.

But as a person that has sat through several of these movies, let me just say: A better ad campaign does not a better movie make. The latest addition, super-powered actioner "Project Power," fits squarely within the mold of a movie that has the credentials to be better than what is ultimately delivered.

On the streets of New Orleans, a new drug has emerged. It's called Power and it promises five minutes of superpowers to anyone that takes it. The only catch: You won't know your superpower until you take the pill. Robin, a young dealer, sees Power as her chance to make enough money to get out of poverty, but when a ruthless former soldier shows up with aims to find the source, she is thrown into a world of violence.

"Project Power" comes out of the gate strong with a killer premise. As it begins, it strikes a nice balance between the comic-book lovers and those that are maybe just a bit tired of it. It's a superhero movie, but not really. However, while its initial moments are intriguing, it quickly fritters this away by having no idea what type of movie it is trying to be. Is it a serious drama? An allegory for the nation's crack epidemic? A gritty take on superhero movies? An over-the-top action movie that is aware of its inherent goofiness? Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman seem to have selected "all of the above."

So the film presses on, occasionally intriguing but mostly frustrating. When "Project Power" attempts to be a metaphor-rich drama, it is like watching a spectacularly intoxicated person try to stand on their own two feet. Screenwriter Mattson Tomlin's script has little confidence in the audience's ability to "get it." This results in long stretches of exposition delivered by nearly every member of the cast. Jamie Foxx's Art, in particular, is prone to grand speechifying, often repeating himself to the point that you wish that you could reach through your television and encourage him to move on. Equally as stranded is Dominique Fishback. In the role of Robin, she is the closest that the audience has to a proxy, and while the filmmakers would love you to believe that she is a strong and confident woman, she spends almost the entirety of the film's runtime in the role of "damsel in distress."

"Project Power" is at its best when it embraces its ridiculous tendencies. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rodrigo Santoro are the only members of the cast that seem to get it, turning in performances that play to the back row, as grandiose as the movie's action. Santoro especially, rocking a cartoonishly evil mustache, is having a fantastic time, regardless of the amount of gravitas that Foxx insists that the film deserves. In this same vein, the film's action is a particular highlight. The different superpowers on display are interesting and brutal, resulting in set pieces and fights that are far more successful than any scene with actual dialogue.

As the film ended, I yearned for it to be better, for it to have enough confidence in itself to be as bombastically insane as it could've been. The movie has the potential to be something stupid and fun, something that Nicolas Cage would excitedly be cast in, but it refuses to get out of its own way. It insists that it's important, that it has something that is both worthwhile and important to say. But "Project Power" can never stick the landing, wavering in an in-between space: Not crazy enough to be fun, not smart enough to be good.

Comments on Facebook