Super powers can be a fun thing in movies, but they need to have rules and, more importantly, they must make sense.
“Project Power, unfortunately, doesn’t have a good control on this aspect, or other film elements for that matter.
The film is set in New Orleans and takes place as a new drug is spreading through the city. Rather than giving people a high, though, this new drug causes people to have five minute bursts of super powers.
As the film goes on, the drug is shown to give different people unique powers, such as super strength or camouflage. The film follows a trio of characters mixed into the situation, a cop who’s using the drug himself to fight back named Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a former soldier ,Art (Jamie Foxx), who’s trying to limit its spread and a student, Robin (Dominique Fishback), who’s started dealing the substance.
The idea at play in “Project Power” isn’t bad but the execution is rather sloppy. One issue is the film seems to want to be two things at once.
At some points, the movie seems to be leaning more toward that of a darker, crime drama with a direct social commentary about how the government handles the drug war. During others, though, the film comes across more like a more lighthearted action/adventure picture.
The imbalance is noticeable here, making for an overall unsatisfying experience.
Another problem is how the film handles its characters. Featured in “Project Power are basically two main characters, one being Art and the other being Frank.
When a movie is about a duo, having two main characters is fine since their stories are usually connected. However, in this movie, Art and Frank don’t really meet and share screentime until close to the third act.
As a result, there are two competing character arcs taking place and neither truly gets the attention they deserve.
The character bringing the two together, meanwhile, is Robin. But despite being the linchpin to make that happen, Robin kind of gets shoved to the wayside, only having a small subplot about wanting to be a rapper and eventually becoming a damsel in distress in the final third.
It’s unfortunate, since the cast is fine here. Foxx and Gordon-Levitt are proven performers with screen presence and they do the most they can with the material available. The script, though, lets them down with rather generic writing.
Where the movie may have been able to win an audience over is the action, but it too is lacking. The choreography isn’t all too exhilarating and there are some points where things are just hard to see, like in one scene where an action sequence takes place behind a pane of glass.
Despite a multitude of powers available, none of them are shown off especially well either, when compared to something like, say, “X-Men.” The powers have more failings, too. The exact five minute time frame for the drug’s powers seem a bit too exact, and there seems to be no noticeable reason why a certain person gets a specific power.
There’s also no real negative side effects in using the drugs either. At random, sometimes the drug just causes someone to explode, but this happens by chance and comes across more like plot device. Characters aren’t shown to have withdrawals, or signs of exhaustion after using.
Another thing noticeable that’s somewhat distracting is the emphasis that the movie takes place in New Orleans. It’s true, cities can become basically a pseudo-character in some movies, like San Francisco and Los Angeles in last year’s “Last Black Man in San Francisco” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” respectively.
But here, the fact that it’s in New Orleans is played up so much I’m surprised it didn’t take place during Mardi Gras. Honestly, what came to mind was that Simpsons short where Chief Wiggum works as a detective in New Orleans.
Despite all of the issues, “Project Power” never gets truly bad. Well, the film’s big climax is kind of laughable and doesn’t help the movie’s cause. But the picture as a whole is a watchable hour and some change to escape with some action.
The fact is it probably could have been improved, maybe have it be more of a buddy action flick with Frank and Art working more as a team. Or just go with one main character with a more focused crime drama story. The movie just fails at balancing things out, though, and its execution of the drug in the film is poor. 2 out of 5.