Project Power is the latest Netflix original movie and it is a movie I like to classify as a “start-and-stop” movie. It is a movie that you can start watching, pause or stop the film whenever you want, and pick it back up whenever you want and will be able to pick it back up right away. You can do this multiple times and take however long of a break you want and you’ll be able to finish the film just fine. This is far from a compliment for a film, especially a film with the scale and the cast as Project Power.
Project Power is a film about a pill that gives its users unpredictable superpowers for five minutes. When this new drug hits the streets of New Orleans, a teenage dealer named Robin (Dominique Fishback) and a cop, Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), must team with ex-soldier Art (Jamie Foxx) to try and take down the group responsible for the creation.
Director’s Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are an interesting enough directing team to make me interested in a movie about a super drug. The duo, who got their break with the documentary film Catfish, have turned their focus to meta films about current youth culture, particularly with their 2016 underrated and underseen Nerve. I thought for a second that Project Power would dive into a similar idea, especially since we live in a world where new drugs and new trends happen all the time, this seemed like something right in their wheelhouse. But that isn’t what Project Power wants to focus on. In fact, I am still trying to piece together what the film was actually trying to say. This isn’t a movie about how a new drug or a new trend can effect an entire group of people in a negative way. There is too much going on Project Power and it is too unfocused to work as a film.
Besides this new drug hitting the streets of New Orleans, it also features Art trying to find his daughter, who has been kidnapped by people who created this new drug. Art’s daughter is barely a character and really doesn’t matter at the end of the day. We also got Robin’s mother having diabetes and Robin having to sell drugs to pay for medicine, which seems to get forgotten during the film. Also, apparently Robin wants to become a rapper, yet this is only brought up twice and doesn’t even come up in the last half of the film , and Frank’s occasional usage of this new drug while attempting to keep the New Orleans streets clean. None of this gets developed and none of it gets resolved and it all takes away from the more interesting plot line about the drug. They also shove the fact that the film takes place in New Orleans so far down our throats, Drew Brees might as well have fed me a po’ boy. There is nothing really interesting in this movie. It’s just a whole a bunch of things shoved into a movie, which is what makes it so easy to walk away and come back because even if you miss something, it won’t matter.
One of the bright notes of the film is the performances. Following up his brilliant turn in Just Mercy, which almost got him an Oscar nomination, Jamie Foxx is proving why he is a movie star. There are layers to Art that Foxx portrays that the film only skims the surface of. Though a man who wants his daughter, he’s a lethal warrior with PTSD. Foxx is great and I love his recent trend of performances. Levitt is my favorite performance in the film as the cop who bleeds New Orleans and wants to do anything and everything to keep the streets clean, including taking the new drug himself. His character is the most interesting and I wish the film focused more on Frank and Robin’s relationship. Fishback is a delight and though her character isn’t written the best, she’s really charming and works great with Foxx and Levitt.
It took me three pause-and-plays to finish Project Power. I began watching the film at ten o’clock at night and wasn’t feeling it after about forty-five minutes. I paused the film, went to bed, and continued it the following morning. During my morning viewing, I paused it after about a half hour to make some food and do some cleaning and then finished the remainder of the film. This movie never grabbed me and as I continued to watch it, I was more and more frustrated with it. Though the cast is excellent and all give good performance, the plot is messy, the movies themes are irrelevant, and the action is subpar. Watch this movie, take a nap, do some chores, you’ll still be fine.
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