Review: 'Project Power' (2020) Dirs. Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Netflix continue to dominate the VOD market with a fresh twist on the superhero tale set in a very real modern world...
A powerful new drug is sweeping the streets of New Orleans. It gives whomever takes it a superpower for five minutes, anything from strength to speed. But, it could simply kill the user instantly.
As more people take the drug and crime-rates soar, NOPD Officer Frank Shaver (Gordon-Levitt) works with dealer and rapper Robin (Fishback) to take the dealers off the streets and stem the drug.
However, former soldier Art (Foxx) is also seeking the source of the drug for his own reasons, and the three are thrown together to stop a dangerous, addictive and deadly world of power and greed...
A darker, urban version of 'X-Men' with a few big twists. The superhero genre is spun on its head for this story by Mattson Tomlin and directed by a partnership responsible for 2010s 'Catfish' and 'Paranormal Activity 3'. This is a world where extraordinary powers are granted to users of a drug flooding the streets of New Orleans. For five minutes, the user is granted anything from super strength to being a pyrokinetic or having bullet-proof skin. But, if the users biology doesn't take to the drug, they blow up. Simple.
And this time, the heroes aren't using superpowers for good and saving the world; more like saving themselves and making money from it. This is a dark and dangerous real world where class-A drugs are substituted for the flaming pill of power. We have dealers who sell the gear that comes down from the source and turns the streets into a bloody mess, but all for profit. But that's not to say those behind the scheme aren't without that super-villain motive - lots of money, but advancement in human evolution with the public acting as guinea pigs.
It's a brave story wrapped up in a very real environment that doesn't hold back with violence to anyone who is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Jamie Foxx and young Dominique Fishback form an uneasy alliance when their worlds are torn apart by the drug, either personally or via people they know. That's what sets this story apart from simply being a flashy show of powers and CGI fighting; this is a humane story about people dealing with addiction, whether intentional or not, and the pain it brings. Foxx and Fishback are a solid pair and make a very real partnership both seeking their own salvation - Foxx has secrets from his past that haunt him in the present, and Fishback aspires to be something more in a dangerous world.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt once again gives a faultless performance, investing in a simple role but giving it his all as a good-hearted cop getting involved in sorting out crime, but not without blurring some of the law-abiding rules himself to get it done.
The pill itself and the power it grants is a novel idea, but it's not abused given the 5 minute limitation on its power. We don't have swarms of heroes and villains duking it out across New Orleans, having super men or wonder women fighting and harnessing God-like powers in fancy, lens-flared shots. Instead, the powers come and go and are a very Nolan-esque level of reality. Powers also look like they hurt, and they leave marks behind to those who use them. All in all, it's a rather fun idea but given a dark and grounded story to work with.
This is showcased in a standout sequence with obvious inspirations from the stylistic 'John Wick' films of one-shots and balletic action, where Foxx takes the fight to our main dealer Rodrigo Santoro in a blend of violent action and super-power horror.
With the finale, thankfully it doesn't descend into all out CGI chaos and still retains the level of humour and warmth from our three unexpected leads, but also that violent, slightly fantastical action of hero vs villain. Netflix have proven once more they have distributed another top tier original movie, packed with star talent and production design.
'Project Power' harnesses the tone of 'Batman Begins', the fantasy 'X-Men' and the attitude of 'Blade' to be nothing but entertaining.
'Project Power' is a Screen Arcade / Supermarche production