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Review: Project Power

PROJECT POWER (L to R) JAMIE FOXX as ART in PROJECT POWER Cr. SKIP BOLEN/NETFLIX © 2020

The premise of “Project Power” is nothing new. We’ve seen similar concepts in “Limitless” (2011), the short-lived streaming series “Powers” (2015-2016) and even “Lucy” (2014). Fortunately enough, “Project Power” does enough to set itself apart and not come off as something soullessly derivative. The premise of the film is about a new, highly lucrative drug that has hit the streets of New Orleans called “Power”, which grants the consumer a unique “extraordinary” ability for five minutes. While not neurologically or chemically additive in and of itself, this rare Pandora’s box capsule does offer the user the “high” of being powerful and even nigh-invincible. The caveat of the Monkey’s Paw pill is that the user may gruesomely “self-destruct” or not be immune to their own power – i.e. if you turn into the human torch, you still suffer severe burns.

The story follows three key individuals, who become intertwined as the plot progresses over the course of about two days. We start off with the street-smart Robin, played by up-and-coming African-American actress Dominque Fishback, a pusher of Power who sells the drug to make quick cash to pay for her diabetic mother’s medical expenses. She’s also an aspiring rapper with stage-fright. The next major character is officer Frank Shaver, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt – who has left crime-riddled Gotham City for the more dangerous streets of New Orleans. Joseph plays a straight-laced police officer who is willing to bend or even break the rules in the name of justice and the badge. This comes out as he uses Power, purchased from Robin, to gain bulletproof skin (ala Luke Cage) on the job to bring down this new wave of super-powered criminals plaguing his city. The last character is Art, played by veteran Jamie Fox, the lynchpin for the whole movie. Much like his character in “Sleepless” (2017), Jamie plays a hell-bent father on a suicide mission to save his daughter at all costs.

Credit needs to be given to writer Mattson Tomlin, because all three characters never feel underdeveloped nor overshadowing. Everyone has sufficient and equal development to flesh them out as more than just two-dimensional architypes and more like actual human beings. A significant portion is spent with Robin and Art reluctantly working together. In short order, there are the seeds of a budding surrogate father-daughter dynamic between the two, who get off on a pretty rocky first impression. Nevertheless, this bond does not feel forced or rushed, and comes off gradually and organically.

The cinematography (courtesy of Michael Simmonds) was nice, making New Orleans come alive as a character and not just a backdrop for the plot. As the film reaches its climax we get a few good action scenes and a nice display of different CGI-enabled powered opposition. I liked the quality and variety of the powers on display, except for one that gave me flashbacks of Ang Lee’s “Hulk”, which was the only detractor. The fight scenes are methodical and digestible, rather than a frenetic free-for-all. There is one event in particular, wherein Art takes on a room full of gun-toting bad guys. The scene is circumvented in a sly way that semi-distracts the audience.

There is of course a conspiracy looming in the background and potential nation-wide and even global stakes involved; but if the movie had gone “bigger” or “more extravagant” it would have lost its sincerity. What’s there in terms of action and drama is sufficiently satisfying. Overall, “Project Powers” does not bring anything brand new to the table, or aims for some great message or commentary. Its well-presented and performed take on the action-crime “power” fantasy warrants its existence amongst its peers. The movie is well-paced, with great character development, helped in no small part by its tight and high-caliber cast. In short, “Project Power” is a decent action flick that hits all the right emotional beats, making it worth a watch.

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Hailing from the eastern-most Caribbean island of Barbados, Fabian Wood has long since been fascinated by the power of storytelling to inspire and invoke emotions – whether in film, comics or videogames. No longer content to be just an avid comic book reader and videogamer, he’s eager to exercise his literary acumen as an aspiring writer and reviewer.

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