Project Power (2020) ☆☆(2/4): A flat genre piece without much power

Netflix film “Project Power” does not have much power and imagination to boost its supposedly intriguing story premise, and that is a big letdown to say the least. While initially beginning with considerable potentials, the movie eventually gets devolved into a mediocre crime action drama which will not surprise you much especially if you are quite familiar with its genre territory, and I was also disappointed to see the good efforts from its main cast members being wasted a lot in this pedestrian misfire.

During the opening part, the movie quickly establishes its story promise. A new kind of illegal drug is suddenly distributed around in New Orleans, and this drug, which is incidentally called Power, makes its users have individually different superpowers for five minutes. Although it is relatively more expensive compare to other kinds of illegal drugs, many criminals willingly come to use Power for their crimes, and that certainly generates lots of headaches for the New Orleans Police Department.

In case of a local cop named Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), he is willing to use Power to stop those unruly criminals powered by it, but, of course, that does not look good at all to his direct boss. Not long after using Power for catching a bank robber equipped with the power of invisibility, he is forced to give up his badge and gun, and his case is taken over by some special agents.

In the meantime, we also get to know Robin Reilly (Dominique Fishback), a young drug dealer who has been associated with Shaver. She hopes that she will get enough money for the medical treatment of her ill mother someday, but it is often difficult for a young adolescent girl like her to sell Power on streets, and Shaver has kindly protected her as well aware of the personal motive behind her little criminal business.

And then the situation becomes quite complicated for Reilly when a guy named Art (Jamie Foxx) enters the picture. For some personal reason, this guy has been looking for a certain figure at the top of the Power distribution in New Orleans, and he approaches to Reilly because she may give him any information which can lead him to that figure in question. Although their first encounter is not pleasant at all, Reilly comes to assist Art because she has no choice from the beginning, and it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that Shaver also gets involved more in this situation while trying to figure out what is really going on in the city.

As its three main characters moving from one narrative point to another, the movie serves us the many different kinds of superpowers generated by the drug in the story. For example, one big bearded guy can smash steel doors only with his bare fists, and we also see a young woman getting a superpower not so different from the one shown in “Frozen” (2013), though that turns out to be not as cool as you might imagine.

However, these and other superpowers demonstrated in the movie are more or less than disposable plot elements to be used and then discarded, and the screenplay by Mattson Tomlin fails to develop any of them into something really interesting. While it is rather amusing when the story tries a bit of scientific explanation on Power, the movie does not delve that deep into how the world may be changed a lot by Power, and then it simply resorts to throwing lots of actions into the screen during its last act.

Thanks to the fairly competent direction by Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman, the action scenes in the movie are adequate in technical aspects, but they are not particularly exciting or entertaining, and we only become more aware of numerous plot holes in the story. While the depiction of the uneasy partnership among its three main characters often feels artificial, the movie frequently makes the situation a little too convenient for them, and you may also roll your eyes as observing how incompetent the bad guys in the film are at times. They surely know what Art really wants, but, to my exasperation, they thoughtlessly waste their human resource instead of strategically using that.

The main performers in the movie try as much as they can despite often being under-utilized. While Joseph Gordon-Levitt is woefully wasted in his functional role which is mainly defined by his sports shirt, Dominique Fishback manages to imbue her underdeveloped character with some life and personality, and it is a shame that the movie does not utilize more of her plucky presence. Jamie Foxx, who previously demonstrated in “Just Mercy” (2019) that he has not lost any of his talent and charisma yet, brings an adequate amount of gravitas to his character, and he also has a brief humorous moment when his character makes a sort of bluff to a bad guy watching over him later in the story. In case of the other notable main cast members, Rodrigo Santoro and Amy Landecker are unfortunately stuck with a thankless job of playing one-dimensional villains, and Courtney B. Vance does not have many things to do either during his very brief appearance.

Although it is not terribly awful, “Project Power” is a pretty forgettable dud due to its glaring lack of personality and creativity to boost its story promise, and I must confess that it is already being evaporated from my mind as I struggle to think of anything memorable in the film. In short, this is one of the biggest disappointments from Netflix during last several years, and I sincerely recommend you to skip it for watching better films on Netflix instead.

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