Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman's Project Power is crazy fun, blending together slick action and a wild concept to make for a thrilling dose of adrenaline. Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt work well together, but Dominique Fishback is the real winner, delivering a performance that demands your attention and proves valuable throughout the entire film.
Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Nerve, Paranormal Activity 3/4) team up with writer Mattson Tomlin for Project Power, a slick action thriller debuting on Netflix with a stacked cast and sizable budget. Project Power is the perfect Netflix film by way of high concept and nonstop adrenaline without ever sacrificing its rating for a wider audience. It’s fast, inventive and unafraid to embrace its wild side.
A mysterious pill has surfaced on the streets of New Orleans, allowing those that take it five minutes of actual superpowers. The only catch is that nobody knows which power they are going to get until they take it and that some end up dying immediately after taking the pill. Is the risk worth the reward? Most seem to think so as the city of New Orleans is torn upside down while the evil profit and the good struggle to fight back.
That is until Art (Jamie Foxx), Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Robin (Dominique Fishback) come along. Art has a direct relationship with this mysterious new pill, having been directly involved with its creation, despite his vocal disapproval. Meanwhile, Frank is a good cop just trying to protect his city from whatever evil lies ahead.
Robin’s situation is a bit more complex. She’s a drug dealer that sells whatever she can to make a little extra money to provide for herself and her mother. She doesn’t enjoy doing what she does, but she knows that school and her dream rap career aren’t going to be paying the bills anytime soon, so she does what she has to survive. She falls right in the crosshairs as both Art and Frank are trying to track down the origins of this pill, while also taking down those involved with its spreading.
Project Power is a shining example of when Netflix can be very good. I can imagine a film like this getting butchered to pieces in this day and age, trying to capitalize on an MPAA rating (this film is firmly rated R) or trying to appeal to a worldwide audience with overly-complicated villains or agendas, but instead this film keeps things rather small and contained, which make it all the more efficient as things unfold.
The film takes place in New Orleans and doesn’t really move past the city, which feels refreshing, even though the stakes are as high as they can be. Project Power starts at the ground floor of the birth of the pill, showing us its effect on a city in a mere months, instead of speeding forward and picking up years later.
This allows the writing to explain things without having to provide too much detail as everyone is still trying to understand what this pill does and how it can alter individuals differently.
Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman give the film a vibrant look, capturing the action with slick visuals and a colorful backdrop, despite so many sequences taking place at night or in the rain. Everything about Project Power looks and feels polished, including the CGI that displays some truly awesome moments when various people pop their pills.
Mattson Tomlin‘s script is far from elaborate, but it uses its simplicity to its advantage. The film is laid out rather quickly and then it just gets moving without stopping for air. This keeps things focused and lacking any real interference as the characters seek the answers that are needed to cap things off.
Some might complain about the film’s lack of a real villain, but I found this particular approach to be more effective. The film bounces around many characters and they each play their role effectively to an extent.
The focus is on Art, Frank and Robin, which is very wise as all three bring more than enough energy to the film to warrant a viewing.
Jamie Foxx‘s Art is relentless in his quest to get revenge on those that have literally torn his life into pieces and refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Watching Art interrogate any one of the numerous people that he crosses paths with is so damn entertaining and frightening, because his confidence is just radiating from his bones. This is one man you do not want to piss off.
Frank is more noble in his journey, simply trying to be the do-gooder with major respect to his city and the people in it. What works best is his character’s ability to understand that sometimes you need to take the law into your own hands, even if that means fighting fire with fire. I am glad that JGL was able to open up and give the character some dimension and depth as he learns more about the pill and just what it could mean for the world.
Lastly, Robin is the film’s driving force. She’s just a regular girl caught in between a few shitty situations, again just trying to get by for herself and her mother. She does what she needs to provide for her family, which means venturing deeper down the rabbit hole with Art and Frank and she discovers just what this pill means. Dominque Fishback is a name that I did not know before seeing this flick and suddenly I hope she blows up in a big way, because her ability to “hang” with the likes of Foxx and JGL is impressive and the driving force of this film’s effectiveness.
I can see some writing off Project Power for not having enough content to keep them occupied and that’s fair. This is a simple film that takes advantage of that fact to keep things moving and without any real worries. I thought it was refreshing to have a plot that didn’t need to be explained five times or include double crossing and secret third acts or any sort of weighted mystery to the whole concept of the pill. The film explains all of this very quickly and then just gets to the point, which is that of action and drama.
For that, I commend Project Power for being a lean, mean and efficient dose of Netflix cinema that warrants the monthly subscription cost and then some. I hope this film takes off and that they make two more sequels, because the content is ripe for the picking and I feel that we have only just begun to explore this exciting world and the characters that inhabit it.