REVIEW: “Project Power” is mid-grade at best

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Skip Bolen/Netflix

William Becker, Staff Writer

On its surface, “Project Power” is an immensely interesting concept: there’s a mysterious drug called “Power” that gives people random superpowers for five minutes at a time. Some of these powers are beneficial—such as making you into a flaming superhuman—while others simply make you explode. It is set amongst an impoverished New Orleans still repairing from Hurricane Katrina, which brings forth a message about drugs and their correlation with gang violence and poverty.  

The instant picture this brings to mind is of a thrilling battle between throngs of superheroes and supervillains filled with tons of explosions and unique superpowers slamming together for a fast-paced, end of the world style battle. The premise here is exceptional based on those details alone, setting the creators of “Project Power” up for an intensely exciting and culturally relevant piece of art. If this writeup so far has managed to make you excited to watch, I’m sorry, I was too. 

If there are two words that could be used to describe this film, they would be “wasted potential.” The underutilized content alone deserves an Oscar. While never a bad film by any means, “Project Power” is one of the most disappointing films I’ve seen in ages.  It smothers a lot of exciting ideas and sucks all the life out of them, creating a lifeless action movie that very noticeably has an exciting work of art lurking beneath it.  

Take one of the main characters, Robin (Dominique Fishback). Robin is an African American girl in high school who is also a drug dealer. Robin is dealing just because she feels like she needs to in order to make ends meet. One of the best scenes in the film comes when she is on her phone in class, texting about her upcoming drug deal. A rather belligerent and rude teacher calls her out for her poor grades in front of the class and asks her what she wants to do with her life. One of Robin’s friends immediately retorts that she wants to be a rapper, prompting the teacher to tell Robin to “prove herself.” Her friend starts to beatbox, leading to a freestyle that while not overly impressive, is full of heart and shows her character as wonderfully witty and interesting. Her interest in rapping comes up one other time across the movies nearly two hour run time, which is a huge disappointment. 

Similarly, Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt,) an NOPD officer who comes into contact with Robin, is really interesting. He uses the drug, explaining that criminals make the usage a necessary evil. This storyline also goes nowhere. 

The only time the powers feel properly explored is a scene with a character named Newt (who is played by Machine Gun Kelly) takes the drug and turns into a fiery, insane demon who threatens to burn down an apartment complex. In a very passable scene with decent CGI and cinematography, he chases Art (Jamie Foxx) through the building, before being shoved in a bathtub full of water and killed. Beyond that, there isn’t one action scene in the entire movie that is even remotely interesting. 

The one positive thing the movie has is the characters being relatable and fun to watch interact with each other, but they don’t really feel like they matter or have been explored in an interesting way by the filmmakers. There’s so much about this movie that could’ve been really exciting, but it falls flat on its face and never manages to recover. It’s an exciting idea that is destroyed by being a generic action film.