What initially looked to be a film with an intriguing premise that would turn out to be wasted potential has fought the odds and delivered a solid action/crime film with a hint of superhero abilities. Project Power follows a teenager, a cop and an ex-soldier all working to stop the spread of a drug that grants anyone superpowers for 5 minutes.
Project Power is the second film to hit Netflix this year that highlights superpowers in an inventive way, the other being Code 8, however this one definitely capitalises off its premise a little more. It really does feel quite original in concept through the entire film despite touching on some familiar beats in the execution. There are a number of moments throughout the film that are quite smart and inventive, showing off the creativity of writer Mattson Tomlin, then there are some familiar beats that may show some of the limitations of the genre. It’s one of those situations where you can pinpoint a couple of key story points and roughly how things are going to end up, but the journey remains largely original.
The jumping back and forth between Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s story arcs helps to show two sides of the narrative and to keep things moving. If this was following either just Jamie or Joseph’s arc it would get slow pretty quick, luckily, this structure helps to keeps things entertaining. Despite being much more of a Foxx film than a Gordon-Levitt film, the way the two arcs interact is nice and makes paying attention to both characters worth it. The third act, where everything comes to a head, is the most thrilling, going all-out with the action and coming to a solid conclusion.
I mentioned ‘entertaining’ before and that is exactly what this film is. It may not go as grand as it could have with its premise and it may touch on some familiar beats, but there’s no doubting that the variety of action sequences are straight-up fun. I was worried initially that the film was taking itself too seriously and that was going to hurt it, but it ends up working. In terms of sticking to a consistent tone, the absence of any contrived one-liners and big funny moments helps to make it all feel like the one film. There’s some nice charming moments that may garner a chuckle but nothing is really designed just to get a laugh, and I liked that.
In terms of the characters and performances, Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt carry their respective arcs well. They get you to care about both of their characters and that ensures there’s something to gain from both of their arcs. They don’t pull out the best performances of their careers, but it’s enough to buy them as their characters in this superpower-effected world. When it comes to the strength of a performance, Dominique Fishback may just steal the show. She has a great back and forth with both Jamie and Joseph and is the one tying everything together. At first the relationship between Jamie and Dominique’s characters felt forced, as if it wasn’t earned in the writing, but it grows and ends up feeling quite natural.
One aspect where the film completely fails is in the writing and execution of its villains. It is terribly handled when it comes to trying to show us who the villains are, who’s in power and what any of their names are. The only one who actually gets any notable screen time is Rodrigo Santoro who, at no fault of his own, plays one of the most cliché villains ever put to screen. Other than him, other character names are thrown around and Amy Landecker has a handful of lines, but other than that the villain is basically a nondescript evil corporation, which is immensely disappointing.
In the end, Project Power proves to be an entertaining action film from beginning to end with good lead characters and a solid story that doesn’t waste the potential of its intriguing premise. There are some holes in the story and familiar beats, but nothing that ruins the experience. The film is lacking when it comes to having a strong villain, but that’s the only major gripe. I would love to see a sequel to Project Power as there is enough world-building that makes me want to see more, whether any characters return or not.