‘Project Power’: A messy thriller that doesn’t live up to its potential

Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Joseph Ferrer, Arts & Entertainment Editor

For five minutes, one pill could give you superhuman speed, the ability to turn invisible or any other number of incredible powers. Much like its premise, “Project Power” as a film had great potential. The movie could have been a unique commentary on the harsh struggles of rampant drug use that minority groups face with a superhero flair. Instead, “Project Power’s underdeveloped plot paired with its messy, gratuitous action makes the film’s lasting impact just as short-lived as the pills within the movie.   


 “Project Power’s premise takes place in New Orleans as top-secret government forces test their newfound super pill by distributing it to local dealers across the city. High school dealer Robin (Dominique Fishback), local cop Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and ex-soldier Art (Jamie Foxx) are the film’s central characters and the plot follows their journey to stop the military testing with each of them fulfilling their own goals along the way. 


 “Project Power” has the parts to make an engaging story, but it tries too hard to get its central themes across. Characters deliver lines in a ham-fisted manner and lack any kind of subtlety. The plot also suffers from not having a central villain, with the film randomly switching from the eccentric dealer Biggie (Rodrigo Santoro) to the dull military chief Gardner (Amy Landecker). This not only makes both characters feel half-baked and underdeveloped, but it also makes it difficult to keep track of why and how events are integral to the story.  


Most films of this caliber at least have decent fight scenes to make up for their lackluster narrative, but “Project Power” lacks in this regard as well. While the CGI is competent and helps clearly communicate the various superpowers seen throughout the film, the violent action is messily shot with frequent use of shaky cam, making it hard to keep up with. At several points in the film, “Project Power” tries so hard to be stylish that it ends up achieving the exact opposite effect. One scene, for example, depicts an integral fight scene to the plot entirely from the perspective of a woman being frozen in an ice chamber. In an attempt to create a visually interesting shot, the film actively draws attention away from the central characters of the plot and focuses on a peripheral character that isn’t relevant to the film for more than four minutes.  


Heavy action films don’t always need to have a lot of narrative substance in order to be enjoyable. “Project Power, however, tries so hard to be taken seriously with both its plot and action that it ends up failing at both.