Project Power is the big-budget popcorn flick you’ve been aching to see. The superhero actioner provides a much-needed cinematic jolt to a barren summer. Star lead performances, a better than expected plot, and truly impressive visual effects add up to a high entertainment value. Minor drawbacks, mostly centered on the poorly defined antagonists, are negligible. Project Power offers a tantalizing new superhero franchise.
A group of low-level street dealers gather late night at a New Orleans dock. A bearded man (Rodrigo Santoro) with a scarred face and an army of bodyguards has an intriguing new drug. Power pills will unlock a user’s unique superhero abilities for five minutes. The results could be incredible or devastating. You may explode into bloody goo instead of gaining super strength. It’s a roll of the dice for the dealers. But the mysterious producers are offering the Power pills for free. The city is soon overrun with spectacular, seemingly impossible crimes.
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Dominique Fishback stars as Robin, a high-school girl selling Power to support her sick mother. She also supplies pills to Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a kindhearted New Orleans detective who has seen Power in action. He uses Power to even the playing field against the surge of newly enhanced criminals. Robin’s illicit activities catch the attention of a desperate man. The Major (Jamie Foxx) is hellbent on finding the bearded man. Nothing will stop him from uncovering the true source of the Power pills.
Project Power takes the Limitless concept and runs with it to glory. The premise allows any character to be a superhero, but is brilliant in capping the time frame. Anyone using Power must be keenly aware of the five-minute cut off. In a spectacular scene, Frank chases down a chameleon bank robber. He sets his watch before popping the Power pill. Reverting to normalcy during a Power fight is a deadly mistake. This hitch is cleverly exploited throughout the film.
Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, known for the last two Paranormal Activity films, make the most of their big-budget opportunity. Project Power is a solid effort on all fronts. The first-rate production design, gritty New Orleans settings, and banner special effects deliver the superhero goods. The film has an epic look and feel with multiple standout action scenes. Joost and Schulman raise their game significantly. They certainly have the filmmaking acumen and skill to shepherd further adventures in the Power universe.
The bells and whistles are amazing, but a successful superhero story must have engaging characters. Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt bring true star power to the film. They’re tough as nails, but charismatic and humorous when needed. Dominique Fishback holds her own space with the experienced leads. Robin is not a plucky sidekick. Her actions are dictated by necessity. Project Power explores her character and background in great detail.
Generic baddies popping Power pills are hard to handle, but forgettable after dispatched. There’s a primary antagonist, sort of, who barks orders but is never explained. The shadowy organization responsible for Power remains a mystery. I’m sure this was done purposely to set up the sequel. A better idea would have been to drop a hint of an overall villain pulling the strings. Superheroes need a supervillain adversary. The lack of one here is an obvious miss. Project Power is a production of Screen Arcade and Supermarche. It will be available to stream August 14th on Netflix streaming app.
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Film critic, raconteur, praying for dolphins to grow thumbs and do better.