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Review: Netflix's lame 'Project Power' could use a boost

Courtesy of NETFLIX


Coming off the heels of the stylistic and underrated thriller “Nerve,” I was eager to see what filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman would do next. They proved their chops with the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, and birthed “Catfish.” I suppose their new film, “Project Power,” is an attempt to blend the relentless energy and pacing of “Nerve” with the cerebral context of “Limitless” and the result is a tired misstep that lacks any punch and desperately needs a drink of its own medicine.

The concept revolves around a pill that, for five minutes, gives humans superhuman abilities. It’s legal name is “power,” and before you take your first hit, it’s anyone’s guess as to what that “power” might be. Some gain super speed, others bulletproof skin, and if you overdose, you’ll explode.

Power is supplied by a shadowy government agency who’s infusing the city of New Orleans with the product by way of grungy drug dealers like Newt (Machine Gun Kelly, who's got nothing to do) and Robin (Dominique Fishback). The latter of which sells to Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a hot-shot detective ingesting the pill in an effort to stand equal with the superhuman criminals on the streets. And then there’s Major (Jamie Foxx), an ex-military specialist who's on the hunt for his daughter after she was abducted because of her natural superhuman abilities.

“Project Power” has about five movies all competing for one cohesive vision: young adult novel, superhero flick, gritty detective noir, and science fiction. None of it works practically well and some of the visuals are borderline cringe-worthy, bringing back memories to “RIPD” and we all know how that one turned out. Plus, nobody was asking Foxx to do his best impersonation of Clint Eastwood, and yet, here we are.

“Project Power” is obviously inspired by comic books, capes, and mayhem, but too often the filmmakers overcompensate when it comes to action sequences and cinematography. Most of the brawls are overly gratuitous for no reason, and the bleak visuals don’t mesh well with some of the “power” that radiates from the pill. There’s also a last ditch effort to hone a central theme around disadvantaged Black folk who have been taken and experimented on: references to Henrietta Lacks will likely be lost on most viewers.

At least the landscape and playground is fun, a grimy New Orleans still reeling from Hurricane Katrina proves effective and the dynamic that sits between Foxx and Fishback gives “Project Power” something to root for. The pair develop a strong father-daughter bond throughout the picture and their relationship suggests the filmmakers were aiming much higher than what ended up on screen.

It’s too bad considering there’s the right pedigree of talent mixed in here, and enough rich subtext that could’ve risen above the level of cheesy dialogue and filler subplots to where “Project Power” might have been a sleeper hit. Instead, it should only take five minutes for the effects of the film to wear off.

Grade: D+

PROJECT POWER premieres on Netflix starting Friday August 14th.


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