PROJECT POWER – Film Review

When a pill that gives its users unpredictable superpowers for five minutes hits the streets of New Orleans, a teenage dealer and a local cop must team with an ex-soldier to take down the group responsible for its creation.

Just the other day, I was sitting down on my couch watching television late at night with my mother when an advertisement for a brand new Netflix movie called Project Power came on. I really wasn’t sure what to think when I saw the commercial. It looked like it had some genuine promise but it also looked somewhat goofy and over-the-top. The thing that definitely grabbed my attention right off the bat though, was when I saw Joseph Gordon-Levitt in one of the main roles.

Truth be told, he is one of my favorite actors of all time, and it’s honestly a little upsetting to me to see that he really hasn’t been in a whole lot of films in the past few years. His last major credit was back in 2016 with Snowden, which I admittedly still haven’t seen. But I have seen a large portion of his filmography and I have yet to see him deliver a bad performance. Project Power is no exception.

All of the performances across the board here are quite strong, but the two scene-stealers are without a doubt Gordon-Levitt and Jamie Foxx. Both of them are extremely intimidating and give off dangerous vibes in all the best ways. You get the sense that if you crossed either one of them, it would only spell trouble for you. Not only that, but I was also quite pleased to see Dominique Fishback deliver a nuanced and emotionally charged performance here as Robin. She is incredibly important to the overall storyline of Project Power and therefore, Fishback had a tricky part to play but she completely nailed it.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Frank Shaver in Project Power (2020).

These three actors’ storylines ultimately intertwine with one another which is something that I can say truly surprised me in a good way about the movie. Screenwriter Mattson Tomlin found clever and interesting ways to bring these three heavily different characters together and made it believable which wasn’t an easy task to do, but he pulled it off. Although a few of the characters don’t get as much development as others, they are all fun to watch work off of one another.

One of the things that stood out to me the most when I saw that commercial about a week ago was the action sequences. They looked quite entertaining and well-filmed and much to my delight, I can confirm that’s exactly how they are in the final product. There is practically no shaky cam involved in any of the action scenes which was a massive breath of fresh air. So many movies these days tend to use that tired and annoying technique and I will never understand why. Thankfully, the filmmakers behind Project Power know that the best action scenes are the ones that you can see on camera with steady shots.

That being said though, this leads me to the biggest problem with the film – its tone. The action scenes, while fun, can be ridiculously silly and over-the-top. I’m fairly certain that it was done on purpose and the filmmakers were aware of how goofy they were at times, but it just simply didn’t work for the most part. There is one scene towards the last hour of the film in which somebody takes a pill and transforms into a giant and I couldn’t help but literally laugh out loud when I saw it happen. To top things off, the visual effects on the said giant as well as other characters during specific scenes didn’t look good at all.

But this tone isn’t just strange during the fight scenes, it unfortunately carries over into the actual story of the film as well. This is a movie that, at times, isn’t sure what it wants to be. There are some moments in which it feels like it’s taking itself rather seriously, but then one minute later, it feels almost like a buddy cop comedy strangely. A big example of this comes from the movie’s rap sequences. There’s a scene early on where Robin and The Major just escaped a deadly situation, and for some reason, Robin stops and starts rapping to The Major out of nowhere and it felt so out of place. The tonal shifts here were honestly frustrating.

Really, Project Power as a whole is somewhat frustrating because there are quite a few great things about the movie but there are also quite a few things that aren’t too good. It suffers from a lack of character development with a few of its characters, has a jarring tone that doesn’t work, and some weird visuals, but also has an amazing dynamic with the cast members, entertaining action sequences, and a story that was interesting to follow. There is a lot wrong with the movie but there is also a lot right with it. At the end of the day, I did enjoy the film, faults and all. If you are looking for something fun and a little bit goofy to watch over the weekend, give Project Power a shot. It’s worth your time.

Project Power is admittedly goofy and over-the-top, but its entertaining action sequences, fun cast dynamic, and story are hard to resist.

Overall Grade: B

MPAA Rating: R for violence, bloody images, drug content, and some language

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback, Rodrigo Santoro, Colson Baker, Allen Maldonado, Amy Landecker, Courtney B. Vance

Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

Distributed by: Netflix

Release Date: August 14, 2020

Running Time: 113 minutes

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