Project Power falls into a very specific subcategory of movies. The Purge, Waterworld, and The Invention of Lying may have paved the way, but Netflix’s latest is possibly the most clear film to fall into the category of “brilliant concept, weak execution.” The idea of an underground pill that allows people to unlock 5 minutes of a superhero-like power being distributed like a conventional drug is fascinating. Add to that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jamie Foxx, a solid young actress like Dominique Fishback to play a likable sidekick, and you should have all the ingredients to make a fun action flick.
What we got instead is a convoluted film with no clear idea of what it wants to be or do. Plotlines are simple yet blurry, the conflict is inane, and the characters never progress past the caricatures they are when first presented to us. After a relatively strong opening that sets up the leads to have interesting dynamics and growth, the script simply just does not progress past that point.
Take an example: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character is a cop who loves New Orleans. Which you know because he tells you every 5 minutes and wears a Saints jersey the entire running time. That’s it. That’s his whole character. Gordon-Levitt does as good a job he can, as he is a fantastic actor, but he is really just given absolutely nothing to do. Action films are reliant on caring about characters, the tension in thrills are entirely predicated on caring about what happens to your protagonists and the desire to not see them get hurt. When you create such a blank slate of nothingness, it gives me no real interest for them and thus takes the bite out of all the chaos.
This is a real shame because there are some inventive action beats that are fantastically done. The use of the “power pill” is actually quite inventive at points, leading to some brilliant set-pieces and fights. It is shot in exciting ways, and this really saves the movie. Do not go in expecting any coherent or interesting plot, but if all you want is fun action and a movie to switch off to, this movie is perfect.
In essence, this is a popcorn film in its purest form. The plot is fun enough without making any real sense, and you don’t have to become invested in the characters because there is nothing to really be invested in. Normally, there is no real issue with these types of films – but you can really tell that Project Power wanted to be more. There are offhand remarks about the societal constraints placed on people of color and women that are so out of place and never followed. The concept behind this movie was incredible, but the execution was so weak that this forgettable attempt is unlikely to make any impact.