If you could take a drug that instantly gave you super-powers for 5 minutes, what would you do? On paper, this is an idea that just can’t fail. It’s intriguing, hits the peak of superhero drama and establishes basic world-building very quickly. Unfortunately the only power this Netflix Original conjures up is one of indifference, making for an utterly forgettable flick.
Set in the frustratingly under-utilized setting of New Orleans, the story begins with a brief prologue featuring our bid bad antagonist Biggie. He’s created a brand new pill that allows superpowers to become the norm for 5 minutes at a time.
With the drug running rampant across the city, we skip forward to find the balance of power has shifted. Ironically, power is also the name of the drug itself, playing out as a smart double entendre of sorts.
Unfortunately, this cleverness doesn’t extend to the characters inhabiting this world. At the heart of this volatile conflict lies three predominant players. Ex-soldier Art is desperate to find the suppliers responsible for shipping Power. At the same time, he’s also searching for his missing daughter. This search eventually leads him to teenage dealer and wannabe-rapper Robin.
Mixed up in the middle of this is Frank, a typical beat cop and someone whose tasked with tracking down and bringing Art in for questioning.
For the first half of the film at least, the story ticks along nicely with the three characters eventually converging together in typical fashion around the midway point. Under-developed character arcs aside, this eventually ends with another antagonist entering the fray and a desperate struggle for survival as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
It’s a pretty standard superhero narrative but one that lacks the same charisma, tone and humour that carries a lot of the Marvel Universe titles. The biggest problem with Project Power though comes from its overall direction, which juggles far too much over such a short space of time. Somehow this film feels both too small and too big, with questionable pacing and some lightning quick, poorly shot action scenes.
Oftentimes the rapid-fire quick cuts disorient these scenes and make it difficult to see what’s going on. If you thought the Jason Bourne films had rapid edits, Project Power beats those films to the punch. There’s so many cuts here that are broken up by cut-away scenes with an equal amount of frenetic energy.
The only instance where the movie actually benefits from this style comes from that aforementioned midway point. There, a revolving camera moves across a constantly freezing icy cage as Art fights goons outside the glass. It’s still messily shot but this time it actually feels tonally on-point with what’s happening.
Given the cast Netflix have assembled for this movie, it’s disappointing to see such paper-thin characterization. Biggie has absolutely no depth whatsoever while Art is propped up by the charisma of Jamie Foxx, who carries his role to the finish line.
Unfortunately his backstory is still one of cliches and tropes, relying on tried and tested ideas we’ve seen a million times before. The same can be said for almost everyone else too and there just isn’t enough here to really get invested in any of the characters.
For such an interesting concept, Project Power is a poor showing. In its most basic form, this is a formulaic, sleepy movie that struggles to step outside its own mediocrity.
Ultimately though Project Power falls into the same trap a lot of these other Netflix Originals suffer from too. The movie takes an interesting idea and squanders it completely, dragging it out across 110 minutes of forgettable fluff. I wanted to love this movie but unfortunately there’s too many problems here to ignore.
It’s not very bad – especially after that compelling first act – but it’s not very good either. This is one drug you’re unlikely to get a return prescription for when you’re done.