Friday, August 21, 2020

Project Power

There's an intriguing kernel of an idea in Project Power about the possibility of a drug that could deliver short-term super-powers. Set in New Orleans where the drug has popped-up, we're introduced to morally-ambiguous but self-righteous cop Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who uses the drug to fight off criminals using the drug to get away with crimes. Frank buys the drugs from a teenager (Dominique Fishback), who is a nice drug dealer that only sells drugs to get her mother much needed surgery just like Frank is a nice drug user only taking Power in order to become temporarily invincible and take down those with worse intentions.

That's enough for story for the film to delve into, but there's also a former soldier calling himself Major (Jamie Foxx) rousting local dealers in hopes of working his way up the chain to the supplier. As for the supplier, the script feels a bit unsure if they are government or corporate (we know from Frank that the experiments started in the United States Armed Forces, but we see no actual government agents at work other than a couple of Men in Black stand-ins who are never identified).

We're told that everyone's reaction to the drug is different as it unlocks some kind of animal-based genetic code in the individual (although I'm not sure what animal is bullet proof?). While loosely explained, the visuals of the different powers are impressive. Most of my issues with Project Power come from Mattson Tomlin's script which feels like it needs at least two rewrites (and may or may not have been lifted from the Indian sci-fi film Iru Mugan). The morally ambiguous nature of pretty much every single character aside, the premise of a secret organization releasing a super-powered drug in a city to test it (where it might get out of control or in the hands of someone who could try and reverse engineer it) is a hard pill to swallow. If you had the ability to create super-soldiers, wouldn't you create super-soldiers and keep the truth of the project as secret as possible? Also, if the drug is so easily available are you honestly saying the city wouldn't be in far more chaos than the relatively small number of incidents we witness?

Despite some of the plot problems, the cast is perfectly acceptable for an action film which also sports solid chases and explosion and some cool-looking special effects with powers on display. Foxx and Gordon-Levitt are fine in the throwaway action roles, although I'm not sure what accent the later is doing half the time, Fishback works as the disdainful teen dealer turned hostage turned vigilante, but the film doesn't have much in the way of villains who seem to be both individually and collectively nameless (as if it wasn't even worth the effort of anyone involved to name them). For an action flick which hints at, but never develops, larger social issues, that you're going to get free with a Netflix subscription, Project Power may be worth a look for the right audience, but it's hard not to see it as a missed opportunity.

  • Title: Project Power
  • IMDb: link

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