Project Power, Visual Pop Despite Rudimentary Plot

Original superhero films, featuring characters not based on comic-books or pre-existing material, are pretty rare. Much like most genres I suppose, but lately it’s always a little strange, and perhaps a little refreshing, watching a story about supernatural abilities that bears no resemblance to or basis in the DC or Marvel universes. Project Power is one such story, a glossy yet grimy drug-movie take on a pill that grants any user either death or destructive abilities. Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and young newcomer Dominique Fishback combine their talents for a series of buddy movie scenarios that ensure we never forget about the human cost at stake amid all of the secret military experiments and hush-hush men-in-black-suits running around. Gordon-Levitt is a detective tasked with nabbing a dangerous fugitive (Foxx) who, according to his probably corrupt police captain (Courtney B. Vance), is likely the “source of the power.” Foxx is a military vet and cool-Dad figure on a mission to rescue his daughter from the clutches of whatever shadowy organization is the true source of said power, of these human “drug trials” being conducted city to city in secret around the globe.

While it’s often bogged down in procedural cop-movie cliches and perfunctory villainy (Rodrigo Santoro, Amy Landecker), Power‘s real weapon is a real-world aesthetic and quality of effects that, for most of the film, puts many Marvel pictures to shame. It’s astonishing how much more visceral and tangible such effects can be when the effort is there or the money is there. Marvel films cost twice the number of Netflix originals like Project Power (produced for $85 million), yet their post processes are notoriously rushed and the budgets are often stretched thin over an excessive number of VFX shots. High production value and a subtle emphasis through visual storytelling on how these powers manifest in a person biologically make each and every display of super-heroics that much more intriguing. You’d think watching a person erupt in flames a la the Human Torch or Pyro would be passe by now, but you’d be wrong. Not when it looks this real. In spite of its hyper real aesthetic, Power doesn’t shy away from pure entertainment. Foxx and Fishback trade rap jabs so good I thought Fishback was a rapper herself, and Gordon-Levitt has a lot of fun evoking Clint Eastwood, a character quirk that quickly endears him to us. Most of all, from fiery drug mules (Machine Gun Kelly) to a starry-eyed socialite covered in ice and much more, Project Power is simply a feast for the senses.

Grade: B

Watch it now on Netflix

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