- Katie Bell
Project Power (2020)
"What would you risk for five minutes of pure power?" the Project Power poster inquires. Nothing. Nothing Project Power poster. Because I am almost certain, after watching your trailer and film, that there is a Willy Wonka contract or a clause in the same style as the Santa Clause, written somewhere on that poster that says, "Side effects may include: spontaneous human combustion".
Project Power kicks off with a teenager named Robin (Dominique Fishback) selling "power" on the streets of New Orleans at 3am. Things go pear-shaped pretty quickly, but thankfully Robin is rescued by a New Orleans Police Officer named Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). It's swiftly revealed that Frank is using power to take down baddies who are using it also. It's the age-old tale of a well-meaning police officer who is trying to even the playing field by taking the same drugs as the citizens that he means to apprehend. It's not long before we see Frank demonstrate what the power pills allow him to do and it's not a bad power for a police officer to have. At this point, you're probably wondering what Jamie Foxx is up to (if you haven't seen the trailer). Art (Foxx) is Liam-Neesoning his way around New Orleans on the hunt for his daughter, who has been taken by the power manufacturers. These three people do eventually all come into contact with each other, but I hesitate to say more, lest I spoil the ending, or at least some of the reveals.
Project Power isn't a perfect film, but it's certainly a fun film to watch. While it's listed on IMDB as an Action, Crime and Sci-Fi, it's clear whilst watching, that this film also has strong superhero and comic book influences. The cinematography sits somewhere on a scale between a regular action film and a heightened comic book film, but it's hard to identify where. There's point of view angles, extreme close ups, zooms, craning shots that swoop towards the protagonists and a lot more. Put it this way, the cameras are certainly not stationary and the camera movement is meant to be visible to the audience. There are one or two points in the film though, where the camera movement is a little disorienting, to the point where it is challenging to follow the protagonists. However, this is a fairly small complaint.
Another apparent component of the cinematography, is the inclusion of the colour red. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman clearly have a deep love for this colour, because it is impossible to ignore its presence throughout the film. I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing. However, I think it would be remiss of me not to mention that it's there. Because it's definitely there.
The one major problem that I do have with Project Power, is that they reveal a lot of information far too early. It may be true that this film isn't exactly an original concept and that a great twist may have been challenging to pull off. However, it's not unreasonable to conceive that they may have been able to achieve some interesting reveals throughout the movie, had they worked on this a little more. It's as though in the early stages of planning, they thought of a number of twists, but the further they progressed into production, the more they just gave up on keeping them twisty. A lot of information that is revealed halfway through the film (or even in the climax) is also in the trailer. This isn't necessarily the fault of those trying to pull off the reveals, but it certainly doesn't make their jobs any easier. Finally, I wish they had kept Tracy's power a secret, until she had to use it. I think by holding back more information, and choosing carefully when to reveal it, they would have elevated the stakes and the tension significantly, from start to finish.
Two more nit-picky issues before I let you go and watch this one. Firstly, these power pills are simultaneously the most predictable and unpredictable drugs that I have ever encountered in film. They cause different powers in everyone, some including: invisibility, becoming bullet-proof, becoming a ball of fire, becoming freezing cold and even possessing explosive power. However, for every person, the powers last EXACTLY five minutes. How? I mean, I get it, no such pills exist, so why do I care about the #science ? But I do! It's like they began to think of a Black Mirror concept, but quickly applied Monty Python and the Holy Grail logic. Finally, if NCIS taught me anything as a teenager, it's that it's not easy to just get on a ship and navigate your way around. Gibbs might be able to do it, but everyone else struggles. You can't tell me that Art, Frank, and Robin are all better than Gibbs. I don't believe you.
I've spent a lot of time pointing out the things that I don't like about this film, but the honest truth is that I enjoyed watching it. The performances are great, the soundtrack is engaging and the cinematography is interesting. The combination of all of these things, makes for a really dark take on a classic graphic novel about corrupt cops, crime and superpowers. Although I would have appreciated more time invested in making the twists more twisty and the science more sciency, it's still a good watch.
You can check out Project Power now on Netflix.