Project Power (2020)

“What’s your power?”

What an intriguing concept: a single pill gives you unique, primal powers at 5 minutes a pop. There’s something to be had with such a big and bold idea, a space to explore social commentary, and the ability to be outrageously creative. The potential was there for an exciting excursion yet the execution simply is not. For a film built around the unpredictability of each person’s power, the stagnant story plays out exactly the same as most so-called gritty crime dramas, just with a bit of a supernatural twist. Project Power could’ve used some of the research and development that went into the Manhattan Project. A little more exploration and effort might have made this dud a bomb.

There are three main characters, a bad guy, plenty of goons and the bad boss at the top who’s convinced lives sacrificed will be outweighed by lives saved in the long run. Like I said…this is nothing new. Leading the film is Robin (Dominique Fishback), a street smart teen who pushes the illicit pills for a pretty penny. She’s friendly with Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a risky NOPD officer who’s willing to take the pill in order to level the playing field, even if it might risk his job and become a tough choice to swallow in the long run. Then there’s the mysterious vigilante Art (Jamie Foxx). With a hidden agenda and seemingly nothing to lose, Art dedicates his life to tracking down the source of the pill. It’s clearly personal.

The face pushing the pills and selling to the highest bidders is the aptly nicknamed Biggie (Rodrigo Santoro), who’s more the QVC talking head than the real brains behind the operation. He and his boss view it as a potential tap into the fountain of youth, whereas our trio see the cost encumbered by those exploited on the bottom while the top attempt to reap riches. Sounds a little bit like trickle down economics to me. But the movie doesn’t even seem to grasp its own critique of capitalism, instead moving in a direction that was admittedly surprising but hardly interesting either. Project Power doesn’t project enough power to ever really evolve or change shape. It is what it is. Seems like we’ve been hearing a lot of that lately.

That’s not an entirely bad thing in this case per se. Project Power features three dedicated performances, the direction from Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman shows promise, and there are a few fine tricks up its sleeve. But the film fumbles around during the sleight of hand moments, making for heavy-handed beats which should’ve been seamless and smooth but feel like battering rams instead. The story just gets too clunky, too melodramatic, blindly swinging for the fences too often. Had it found the sweet spot, this one might have knocked it out of the park. There’s good acting, a decent arc, some rich visuals. But there isn’t enough follow through on the pivotal shot to call this one a winner. Project Power isn’t as embarrassing an air ball as Netflix’s 2017 film Bright, but it barely grazes the rim.

“Results may vary.”

Rating: 2 out of 5

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