With movie theatres still closed in parts of the world, today we have another attempt at a stream-at-home blockbuster. With the disappointing The Old Guard in the back of my mind, I was hoping Netflix’s latest offering Project Power would be better. Unfortunately it’s not; there’s more corny music and more contrived characters. As the blurb reads: “An ex-soldier, a teen and a cop collide in New Orleans as they hunt for the source behind a dangerous new pill that grants users temporary superpowers”. This sounds like a mixture of Limitless and X-Men to me, which means this movie isn’t exactly original; take a pill and turn into a bootleg Marvel mutant… oh wow. This is quite obviously a derivative and banal creation but the filmmakers couldn’t care less. Written by newcomer Mattson Tomlin (who is also responsible for co-writing the upcoming The Batman) if Project Power is anything to go by, then it doesn’t bode well for Robert Pattinson’s caped crusader. This flick is directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost who were also responsible for Paranormal Activity 3 & 4, which is probably why this film is so lacking in thrills. Along with the unimpressive effects, every unoriginal element of this movie isn’t worth your time, especially since we’ve all seen it done better elsewhere. Thanks to Schulman and Joost, Project Power also sports a teen TV show aesthetic, resembling a Smartprice Heroes, which means it’s less cinematic and more soporific.
With the film including a couple of black leads, this movie is yet another faux-progressive creation. Set in the poor part of a city with a plot about drugs, and with the word “project” in the title, stereotyping is the only reason this film stars Jamie Foxx and Dominique Fishback (as Art and Robin respectively). Since Robin is black, she of course raps (poorly, I might add) and Art is the hero of the piece because he was in the military, and the only way a black man can ever be a good guy in a movie (other than being a cop) is by being a fatigue-wearing grunt (a Ranger to be more specific). Art says to Robin “you’re young, you’re black, you’re a woman, the system is designed to swallow you whole”. Oh thanks, white writer, for being so in touch with the oppressed.
Within minutes of the film starting, we see Westworld‘s Rodrigo Santoro as a cliched drug kingpin meeting some New Orleans drug dealers, one of which is Machine Gun Kelly trying to look bad-ass but who instead looks and acts badly. There’s lots of terrible writing too, and that’s in addition to the garbage rapping that Robin spits throughout the film. At one point, the character Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) utters some of the worst dialogue ever to be heard outside of an Ali G film: “Is it because I’m white? Are you assuming that me and this beautiful black woman wouldn’t be able to share a happy home?”. The fact that all this line (including the word “beautiful”) is said in a tongue-in-cheek way, makes the script a piss-poor attempt at being funny or relevant.
In terms of story, the plot is not only cliched and hackneyed, it’s also daft. The tagline reads “What would you risk for 5 minutes of pure power?” and the answer is… nothing. A mere 5 minutes? I wouldn’t risk anything for 5 minutes of anything! I’d rather stay healthy and get my 5 A Day.
Project Power has little or nothing to say; about clinical studies, military experimentation, drug-trafficking, crime, race, wealth, human evolution, genetic engineering, all of these topics are treated in a flippant way rendering the finished product a mundane and meaningless movie. This is more of a placebo than a drug. So to recap: the camerawork is amateur; constantly wobbling and framing objects too closely. The action is dull; badly choreographed fights and crap car crashes. Almost all of the characters are cliches and their dialogue is sometimes cringe-worthy (“Do you know I’m awesome?” – “Go and be awesome then!”). The entire movie is so mediocre that taking a dose of LSD wouldn’t make it look or feel any better. If listening to shite Hip-Pop whilst watching cheap-ass superhero effects is your thing, Project Power is for you. To everyone else, this movie, like the pill is…