Reviews | Written by Paul Mount 17/08/2020

PROJECT POWER

CERT: 15 / PLATFORM: NETFLIX / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Netflix has done its best to keep our spirits up during a blockbuster-free summer season with a handful of genre action films intended to fill the gap left by the delay to our latest fix of mega-budget multiplex madness. By and large, their more modestly budgeted efforts, however imaginative and well-intentioned, haven’t quite hit the sweet spot and have generally come across like slightly superior TV movies.

Latest off the blocks is Project Power, directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, which is a muddy and tonally confused mass of sci-fi and superhero clichés clinging to a script that singularly fails to play to the strengths of its charismatic stars Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. There’s some mileage in the premise, though - the latest street drug gives its users random superpowers for five minutes - and the first twenty minutes promise a powerful, energised urban take on the glossy fare offered up by Marvel and DC. But the film quickly loses its way and dissolves into a run of underpowered, often poorly-staged action sequences underpinned by explosive special effects to disguise sloppy scripting and thin characterisation.  Foxx plays ex-soldier Art whose daughter Tracy has been abducted by the cartel distributing the new drug. Art quickly comes into the orbit of  sassy teen drug dealer Newt (Dominique Fishback, who’s excellent) who dreams of being a rap star (naturally) and who herself becomes involved with one of her regular users, New Orleans Police officer Frank Shaver (Gordon-Levitt) as he works to infiltrate the cartel despite the warnings of his superiors.

There’s a lot working in Project Power’s favour, not least its New Orleans setting which gives it a welcome grittiness and edge especially when it occasionally touches upon issues surrounding the town’s sense of disenfranchisement post-Katrina. But its social conscience is subsumed by its rather tired A-plot, which sees ‘power’ users develop exactly the abilities they need in any given situation - one develops Wolverine-like hand-blades, another turns into a poor man’s Hulk - and any energy in the fight sequences is dissipated by direction that seems less interested in fighting and more interested in anything else that wanders into frame. Disappointingly bland, Project Power will just about pass muster until we can get back into the cinema to see how the big boys do this sort of stuff with much more flair.