A novel approach to superheroes is spoiled by derivative clichés

 Film  by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Project Power
Friday 14

2 out of 5

On paper there’s nothing wrong with Project Power, outside the inane title. The premise is promising (a drug gives you super powers for five minutes!), the actors are likeable and have dramatic chops (Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt!) and the directing team is attuned to the zeitgeist (Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, Catfish, Nerve).

In practice, this potential is torpedoed by storytelling so hackneyed it’s insulting.

Sure, Project Power is stylish, but its interesting concept is dealt with from the most pedestrian angle possible: a good man (Jamie Foxx) ventures into the world of organized crime to rescue his daughter. It’s been done at least since Hardcore (1979), if not before.

I’m getting ahead of myself. The plot: in order to test Power in the field, the drug’s producers give free samples to New Orleans’ local dealers (in this universe, kingpins know marketing). Six weeks later, Power is all the rage. How could it not be? Power triggers unique abilities in whoever consumes it. Just ignore the side-effects, such as the fact Power might make you explode.

To counter superpowered criminals and dumb kids searching for a high, local police detective Frank (Gordon-Levitt) has started to consume Power himself. Frank becomes friendly with small-time supplier Robin (Dominique Fishback, The Hate You Give), a teenager paying for her mother’s medical treatment with drug money. It’s cliché upon cliché. Their adventures intersect with Jamie Foxx’s crusade, and mayhem ensues.

Project Power seems like a showcase for Jamie Foxx, an actor who has been far more successful in dramas (Just Mercy) than as an action hero (Robin Hood, Sleepless). Joseph Gordon-Levitt is wasted — Frank is never allowed to grapple with the ethical implications of using the same product he’s trying to get off the streets. Aside from the drug abuse (for the greater good!), Frank is such a straight arrow he’s rather dull.

The stylized transformations of ordinary people into temporary superheroes does nothing for the movie. I mean, it looks cool.

Without any substance or even a sense of humour about itself, Project Power feels hollow, just a little better than the similarly themed Bloodshot. And if a film invites comparisons to Vin Diesel flops, it’s doing something wrong.

I’m sorry to report Project Power has enough loose ends to set up a sequel, so be mindful of your clicks. This sort of mediocrity should not be encouraged.