In the picture

August 23, 2020

Project Power has plenty of visual flair but lacks emotional punch.

Power Project ★★ 1/2

Staring: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens, Melissanthi Mahut, Mikael Persbrandt, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Demi Lovato

Directed by: David Dobkin

Tagline: Nobody wins solo

Netflix may have been the undisputed king of entertainment during this peculiar summer but the bulk of its feature length offerings have ended up being frustratingly mediocre. Now joining their list of middling releases is the action flick Project Power, a superhero caper that doesn’t make the most of its interesting concept.

At the centre of the premise is a pill that grants superpowers but comes with a catch: the powers are different for each individual – you don’t know which one you’ll get until you try the drug for the first time – and the effect only lasts for five minutes.

In a city struggling with increased crime brought on by this unpredictable and sometimes lethal drug, we meet Art (Jamie Foxx), a man who is trying to find the distributor of the Power pills. But he ends up being chased by a suspended police officer, Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who has been told that Art is the suspected source of these glowing capsules. The paths of both men intersect with that of teenage drug dealer and aspiring rapper Robin (Dominique Fishback) who sells pills to provide for her ailing mother. Frank has been buying capsules from Robin (and taking them in order to even the playing field while chasing Power-enhanced criminals) while Art tries intimidating her, hoping she will lead him to the people behind the drug.

As their arcs converge, the film reveals the true origin of the pills and the intent of the project that spawned them. With stakes that range from personal to global, the characters must team up to bring down the sinister operation and the vile operatives behind it.

Helmed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost - the team behind Paranormal Activity 3 and Paranormal Activity 4 as well as the film Nerve and the documentary Catfish - Project Power weaves several interesting but unoriginal threads into an uneven action thriller. There is visual flair aplenty here, but the movie doesn’t fully explore the implication – and, at times, consequences – of the topics it broaches, and struggles, in particular, with its dramatic elements. Considering how much is often at risk, it is strange that the proceedings remain emotionally hollow.

The strengths here lie in the visuals and action sequences – a scene that unfolds around a woman with Elsa-esque abilities is striking in particular. But character building and depth aren’t the movie’s strong suites. Even a very committed Foxx as well as a standout performance by relative newcomer Fishback can’t overcome the film’s weaknesses that stem from a predictable storyline and an underdeveloped script. An underutilized Gordon-Levitt also leaves you wishing he’d been given better material to work with.

Project Power is, ultimately, a watchable but forgettable entry in Netflix’s ever-expanding catalogue. It is more likely to feed your yearning for some mindless action than engage you with its supposed social commentary.

Rating system:   Not on your life ★Not on your life ★ ½ If you really must waste your time ★★ Hardly worth the bother ★★ ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only ★★★ Good enough for a look see ★★★ ½ Recommended viewing ★★★★ Don’t miss it ★★★★ ½ Almost perfect ★★★★★ Perfection

In the picture