What would you risk for 5 minutes of pure power? This is the premise of Project Power the superhero action film from Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman who many may remember from the film Catfish.
Are they up to the monumental task of releasing an original superhero story in an already packed genre?
Short answer? No.
What’s your power?
In Project Power there is a new drug on the market and it’s the ultimate addiction, superhuman abilities. These powers range from temperature manipulation to body manipulation. The idea is put forward that humanity can unlock its full potential with these pills. We are however told constantly in this film that not every power is super and there is always the risk of overdosing which can be dangerous for everyone in the vicinity.
In this world of superhumans and superaddicts we meet Robin (Dominique Fishback). She’s a young girl trying to survive on the mean streets of New Orleans helping to push this drug so she can help her mother. Then Robin is kidnapped by Art (Jamie Foxx) a man on a mission and she is in his line of sight. He has his own quest and it involves the drug pushers and their goals for pushing Power on the streets of New Orleans. The final piece of this Trinity is Frank a detective who is trying to fight fire with fire. He’s using Power to help bring down the superhuman criminals running amok on his streets.
The theme of drugs and the manipulation of people of a certain demographic is strong in this film. It’s not subtle by any means. With a more deft hand this could have been far more potent I think as a narrative element. Similar to Bright and its portrayal of the supernatural Project Power wants to show the audience superhuman’s as something not so out of the realm of the impossible.
Unfortunately like Bright and The Old Guard by bringing these over the top elements down into the muck these directors also take away from what makes superheroes so super.
Go weird or go home
In Project Power, everyone has one power so once they take the drug for the first time they find out their power. They then have 5 minutes before it runs out and they have to dose again to get said power back. This makes the action scenes quick and full of frenetic energy as you have to watch for when you run out of Power. It’s an interesting element.
Unfortunately all but one of the powers has been seen before. The cinematography is also inconsistent. There are two scenes where the film shines. The action and the powers on show are brilliant. However they are at the beginning and the end of the film which means in between those scenes the quality of the CGI drops, the action isn’t particularly interesting and the story isn’t interesting enough to hold your attention.
In Project Power what the directors had to do was show us the fringes of this society. For example, the film in its first act has a fantastic fiery battle between Art and an empowered individual, it also showed us that these powers were doing something to the body because his opponent looked messed up. The film didn’t reach that same height of the absurd until the final act of the film but by then it was too late.
The characters kept saying there were weird, out there powers but you never see that and it was a shame. In a world where we have My Hero Academia and One Piece pushing the superhuman narrative in weird and wonderful ways consistently Project Power felt restrained and I was frustrated when the action scenes kicked in because I don’t think the directors had a clear vision for action set-pieces as a whole.
Ultimately what saved Project Power from utter mediocrity was the humans behind the powers in particular Robin. Robin as a character is brilliant. You empathise with her plight. She’s a good person but she’s doing bad things and she understands that but she wants a better life for her and her mother.
Throughout the course of Project Power Robin challenges everyone she comes up against and she grows as a result. She surprises everyone with her quick wit, her charm and her “power”. It’s a compelling journey.
Foxx and Levitt are supporting characters even though the film sets both up as its leading men in the first act. Foxx is given a decent enough motivation (vengeance) but Levitt is given nothing. He’s really just there to use his Power to get the group out of jams. Neither flexes their acting muscles particularly hard and that’s fine because at the end of the day this was all Robin’s adventure in my opinion.
Much like Bright and The Old Guard ,Project Power isn’t weird enough or kooky enough to stand out among the crowd. It sets up a possible sequel nicely but I would prefer a limited series because this world needs further exploration to be in any way interesting.
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