Despite my feelings, Netflix has been on a roll with their recent release of action films. Project Power positions itself as another one of those with Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Dominique Fishback heading the flick.
The film, set in New Orleans, follows what happens when a new drug, a mix of X-Men mutant powers meets Limitless, called Power hits the streets. After the epidemic is on the rise the film breaks and follows high school student, wannabe rapper, and Power seller Robin played by Dominique Fishback as she gets caught up with Major, played by Jamie Foxx, as he works his way up the ladder to find his daughter. Meanwhile, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, after taking Power to help stop a robber, is tasked by his captain to bring Major in because of his connections to Power. From there a flurry of twist, turns, and a generic third act climax follow as the truth about Power is revealed.
If you think the fact the filmmakers play Power as a drug effecting lower income neighborhoods is a coincidence it’s clear it is not. The film is all about how low income, and specifically Black (the film capitalizes that word for some reason so I guess I will too) bodies, and how they are seen as both disposable and incredibly important. This is represented in Robin perfectly. It helps the Dominique really gets how to play the street smart kid who is also secretly booksmart insanely well. Using her as the example they explain why someone in her position does what she has to, to survive, and helps get a push from Jamie Fox’s Major into doing that.
Fortunately or unfortunately that idea of urban experimentation clashes hard with the Taken style revenge movie Jamie Foxx is in, and the Dirty Harry rouge cop drama Levitt is in. They make it work in the second act closer well enough when all the plot threads converge at a night club used to show off Power and give the film its namesake. There is also an incredible action seen centered around a person confined in a cage and slowly freezing to death.
The unfortunately comes soon after when it’s revealed everything has to go down on a freighter and a generic climax about saving someone takes places. It helps that the team gets great use out of coming up with some different powers, but the showdown feels disconnected from what the rest of the film is going for, overall lessening the experience.
The film can also look really gorgeous as it explores all over New Orleans, but does push itself too far with some TV level CG. Also, not all of the action scenes are well handled, and there is some rather wooden and stilted dialogue in places.
With the ending Netflix clearly wants to push this as their next big series (that, and a bunch of new articles confirming Netflix is searching for their own Star Wars or Marvel movie series), and this could be it. The grounded focus on marginalized groups dealing with real issues feels very Marvel, and the already have a Robin available (the fact nothing is done with a character named Robin being in the same movie as Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a travesty). They just need to work on realizing that a big showdown is not always what makes an ending, following what the characters true wants is.
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