When I heard the plot summary of Project Power, I did not think much of it. Even the trailer did not encourage me to watch it. But since I out-horrored myself lately with my Halloween movies post (yeah it can happen!), it was time for something different, so why not some sci-fi movies. Project Power seemed like a low risk watch, that I could turn it off if it was terrible. However, this was another film that took me by surprise, and I must admit, I do have a soft spot for Jamie Foxx ever since his outstanding performance in Collateral.
Project Power follows a new drug that gives people unique superpowers for 5 minutes only, but, if you are unlucky it also has the potential to kill you. Like most drugs that offer unique highs, it spreads like wildfire on the streets. But with the hundreds of people using it for their own personal recreation, there are nefarious characters tearing the city of New Orleans apart at the seams. A local cop teams up with his teenage informant and an ex-soldier to take down the group who are producing this drug.
I didn’t see Project Power as a superhero story, but a story about the injustices of the world and the people who have to survive in it. It seems like something that is not that far out of the realm of reality, that I could imagine a government funding this type of research. I mean it is 2020, nothing really seems as far-fetched as it used to be. By establishing a realistic baseline, this gives Project Power more heart than a lot of superhero movies that have come out in recent years. Some viewers may argue that this detracted from the superhero storyline, but I think this is the strength of this film.
But it probably wouldn’t have been so compelling if not for the main actors in this film, Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback. Jamie Foxx is the ex-soldier who will stop at nothing to get justice for those who have wronged him. It is Foxx’s superb acting that really elevates Project Power to another level. Exuding gravitas, one of our first interactions with Foxx’s character, Art, is him kidnapping a teenage drug dealer, Robin, locking her up in the trunk of his vehicle. Threatening and menacing in his demeanour, he promises to kill Robin’s mother if she does not do what he wants, but things aren’t so clear-cut with this character. The motivation that is driving this character is a vendetta against the makers of the Project Power drug, but also to rescue someone who has been taken from him. It is this desperation that drives this ex soldier, and the script along with Foxx’s acting, gives us a complex character.
Though Fishback is playing a drug dealer, she is a sympathetic character being forced into this criminal underworld by a system that does not provide. With her mother suffering, Robin has to do all she can to raise money to pay for surgery to alleviate her mother’s pain. I think what resonates so strongly with all these characters is that we ourselves could be any one of them, depending on the day. However, the little sub-plot of her rap aspirations did seem a bit trite, stereotyping and largely unnecessary in Project Power. Be warned there is a rapping scene in the film, and if you are like me, who hates any musical features in non-musical entertainment, you can totally skip that part as it is not important to the story.
Gordon-Levitt is playing a cop, Frank, who loves his city, but has to take the drug to level the playing field. Though he is a likeable character, he is perhaps the most under-developed and least utilized of the three. He seems to only be in the action, when the plot demands he provide assistance or be a decoy. He is quite two-dimensional, probably because we do not get any backstory on him. What pushed him to finally take the drug, that he hates for ruining his city? How did he end up recruiting Robin? The lack of character development with Frank doesn’t diminish the film, but they could have added more nuance to enrich his story.
Even though I enjoyed Project Power immensely, that’s not to say that it is a perfect movie. It could have gone further in its themes and world-building, even though this is a standalone story. But in this era, where everyone is trying to set up a sequel to a film, it is refreshing to have a story that was actually complete. This is a story heavy film, so if you are expecting an action packed superhero movie similar to the MCU franchise, you will be disappointed. Though superpowers are an important factor in this film, it is not the main feature of this story. What drives this film is the battle between the innocent caught up in this drug ridden city, and the evil corporation’s drive for profit that is risking the lives of everyone in New Orleans.
This film features substance over action packed scenes, this is the superhero story I have been waiting for. Project Power is a realistic and human story, that has a science fiction spin, that I hope paves the way for more of its ilk.