A superhero movie where the superheroes need to pop a pill to get their superpowers? Hmm. Sounds like the quintessential American superhero story!
That’s the premise behind PROJECT POWER (2020), a new superhero movie now available on Netflix.
In New Orleans, there’s this new pill on the streets that’s all the rage. Pop it and it gives you a superpower. Of course, like any drug, it can be dangerous, so for some folks, when they take it, they—- blow up! Yikes!
Police detective Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is busy on the streets of New Orleans trying to track down the main supplier of these super pills. He befriends a young dealer named Robin (Dominique Fishback) who’s doing this to pay the medical bills for her sick mother. Robin supplies Frank with information here and there, but nothing major.
Frank’s investigation is further compounded by men in suits who continually show up and shut the door on the local police, frustrating both Frank and his superior, Captain Craine (Courtney B. Vance). But then Craine shares a tip with Frank, that the men in suits are looking for a man named Art (Jamie Foxx) who they believe is the main supplier, and so Frank decides to find him first.
And Art is on the streets, but he’s not the main supplier. He is actually searching for his daughter, who was kidnapped by these strange scientist folks who are using her “special” DNA as part of their experiments developing this drug. On his search, Art crosses paths with Robin, and with Frank closing in, these three characters eventually come together setting up the main confrontation with the film’s baddies.
PROJECT POWER has its moments, but not enough of them to lift this one to superior super hero status. The best part of this one is its cast.
Jamie Foxx is excellent as Art, the former soldier who’s out to take down the superpill cartel in order to rescue his daughter. He gets some good lines, has deadly charisma throughout, and looks believable taking down all the bad guys.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is equally as good as Frank, the cop who’s trying to do right by his city. Like Foxx, Gordon-Levitt gets a lot of good lines and also looks believable in the action scenes.
And Dominque Fishback shines as Robin in a very spirited performance.
All three of these performers deliver the goods and create some likeable characters, so even when the story isn’t firing on all cylinders, at the very least you get to enjoy these folks on screen.
The screenplay by Mattson Tomlin is okay. It’s really nothing we haven’t seen before. The super pill stuff is actually a bit confusing. On the one hand, characters speak of how it enhances the powers already inside the individuals taking it, but in the next breath, we see the scientists experimenting with animal and human DNA. Which one is it?
And like a lot of superhero movies, PROJECT POWER suffers from a lack of a villain. There isn’t one main bad guy here, and the few who appear in this film are sadly lacking in both villainous vision and charisma.
Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman have this one looking good. It’s all slick and polished, but the action sequences rarely wow, and the fight scenes while commendable don’t really stand out.
PROJECT POWER is a mixed bag. I enjoyed the actors in this one immensely, and thought they created some very likable characters, but the story here never really takes off, nor do the action scenes do much to lift this one.
It doesn’t really compare to the films in the Marvel cinematic universe, although it is better than some of the awful DC films which have come out in the past few years. It also just doesn’t really have the feel of a superhero movie. It plays more like a police action/ science fiction tale.
At the end of the day, PROJECT POWER proves to be a mild diversion for those of us waiting for the day when theaters reopen and the major superhero releases return to the big screen.